Nottingham: Ben Stokes said he was proud of bowling an England side missing James Anderson to the verge of an Ashes-clinching win in the fourth Test against Australia at Trent Bridge on Friday. (Day 2 report | Scorecard)
Pace bowling all-rounder Stokes took five wickets for 35 runs, including a spell of three for four in 13 balls shortly before tea, with Australia 241 for seven when bad light ended play on the second day.
That left Australia requiring 90 more runs to make their arch-rivals bat again, with England, 2-1 up in the five-match series, three wickets away from regaining the Ashes.
“We came in without Jimmy, who is a massive loss…I’m really happy with being given the extra responsibility,” Stokes told reporters after Australia had avoided their first two-day defeat in a Test since 1890.
“I’ve always been able to do it, but I’ve never had a chance to bowl for England when the conditions have been so in favour of swing.”
England had effectively sealed the destiny of this match on a first day where Australia, after losing the toss, collapsed to 60 all out in 111 balls — the shortest-ever completed first innings of any Test match — with Stuart Broad taking a remarkable eight for 15 on his Nottinghamshire home ground.
England piled up 391 for nine declared in reply, Joe Root top-scoring with 130.
But with Australia showing more fight with the bat second time around, England were starting to miss Anderson who was ruled out after suffering a side injury in their eight-wicket win the third Test at Edgbaston last week.
Stokes, however, then made the most of increasingly overcast conditions with his second Test ‘five for’ following a return of six for 99 against Australia at Sydney in January last year.
– ‘Unbelievable’ –
Looking ahead, the 24-year-old Durham rising star urged England to be ruthless in their pursuit of victory in Nottingham on Saturday.
“We’re in an unbelievable position here. They’re not quite in our grasp yet, but we hope they’re very close.
“We know no game is over until the last wicket is taken, so we’ll take that attitude in.”
Stokes, a member of the England side whitewashed 5-0 in Australia during the last Ashes series in 2013/14, also held a good low catch at point to get rid of Steven Smith for five as the tourists slumped to 136 for four on the stroke of tea.
It was the fourth innings in a row where Smith, the world’s number one ranked Test batsman, had been out for a single figure score.
Prior to this Ashes, Smith said England would “not come close” to an Australia team on top form.
Stokes, known to be riled by the occasional on-field taunt, did not rise to the bait of Smith’s words when they were put to him on Friday.
“Yeah, we did see that,” he said.
“I don’t want to go too far with this so…we hope we’re going to lift the Ashes tomorrow…that’s it.”
Australia’s Mitchell Starc had the satisfaction of taking a Test-best six for 111 earlier on Friday, but the state of the game meant he wasn’t in a mood to celebrate.
“I would give those six back to be none down overnight,” he said.
Starc (nought not out) and Adam Voges (48 not out) will be the batsmen in the middle when play resumes on Saturday.
And Starc insisted Australia’s lower-order would be no pushovers.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he said. “We’ll fight right to the end, right to the last wicket, the last run, it’s just in our nature.”