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HomeCricBlog4 times England lost from strong winning positions under Stokes & McCullum

4 times England lost from strong winning positions under Stokes & McCullum

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Last Updated on 3 months by Charbel Coorey

Cricket News: A look at four instances where England lost a Test match after sitting in a strong position under Stokes & McCullum

When Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum took over as Test captain and coach, England were in a mess. They had one win in 17 matches with a 1-0 loss in the West Indies the final straw, soon after they were embarrassed 4-0 in the Ashes. Before that, India took a 2-1 lead in their four-match series in 2021 (which was completed in 2022), two months after England refused to attempt a 273-run chase in 70 overs against New Zealand at home.

Since then, England have played their Test cricket with a renewed sense of belief. Stokes and McCullum promised attacking cricket, backed by no fear of failure. The approach reaped immediate rewards in the 2022 home summer, brushing New Zealand aside 3-0, hammering South Africa in the final two Tests, and executing a chase of 378 against India in dominating fashion.

However, it was the 3-0 series win in Pakistan that was arguably most impressive of the lot. Faced with very flat surfaces – the kind that took Australia 15 days to seal a 1-0 series win in early 2022 – England went on the attack and had only winning in mind.

But, over the past year, England have let opportunities slip in big Test matches against New Zealand, Australia, and India. At times, they have let the commitment to Bazball get in the way of playing the situation and setting the game up for victory. Here is a look at four such matches.

4 times England let a Test match slip through their grasp due to questionable decision making under Stokes and McCullum

2nd Test vs. New Zealand, Wellington, 2023

England blew New Zealand away in the first Test of their two-match series in early 2023. They scored at well over five an over in their totals of 325/9d and 374, eventually hammering the Black Caps by 267 runs.

Things were going in a similar direction in the second Test. England clobbered 435/8d at 4.99 per over, before knocking New Zealand over for 209. However, England’s desire to think out of the box gave the Black Caps their only avenue of getting back in the Test – by following on.

Stokes, McCullum, and England may have soon realised their mistake. The Basin Reserve track flattened out as it often does midway through a Test, and the hosts took advantage. Openers Tom Latham and Devon Conway put on 149 for the opening stand, before Kane Williamson (132), Tom Blundell (54) and Daryl Mitchell (54) drove New Zealand to 483.

Cricket News: A look at four instances where England lost a Test match after sitting in a strong position under Stokes & McCullum
England under Stokes and McCullum: Kane Williamson drove the England bowling attack into the ground.

With momentum now against them after being in such a strong position, England needed 258 to win. They fell to 80/5 courtesy of panicked, brainless cricket, but then recovered to 201/5 thanks to Joe Root and Stokes. However, Neil Wagner produced an inspired spell after a very difficult series personally, sealing a remarkable one-run win.

Cricket News: A look at four instances where England lost a Test match after sitting in a strong position under Stokes & McCullum
England under Stokes and McCullum: Williamson and Wagner embrace.

1st Test vs. Australia, Edgbaston, 2023

Again, England’s desire to think out of the box hurt them. Joe Root, seeing them like beach balls, was not out on 118 as day one neared its close. Ollie Robinson looked completely untroubled for his 17 as the pair put on 43 runs at nearly a run-a-ball.

Pat Cummins and Australia were looking worse for wear. They had done quite a bit of leather chasing as England scored at 5.03 an over, and it seemed they were waiting for stumps to come as their respite.

However, Stokes provided the respite. The England captain no doubt did what Australia would rather him do, declaring at 393/8 and leaving at least another 30 runs out in the middle.

Cricket News: A look at four instances where England lost a Test match after sitting in a strong position under Stokes & McCullum
England under Stokes and McCullum: Joe Root was in superb touch at Edgbaston.

Fast forward to England’s second innings. Australia, courtesy of Usman Khawaja’s fine century, got to within seven of England’s 393. England again looked good with the bat. However, some poor stokeplay in the desire to play the Bazball way ensured they finished with 273, again giving the feeling they left a few out there.

Perhaps the greatest indication in the difference of the mindset between England and Australia is the interaction between Kevin Pietersen and Ricky Ponting. Pietersen was raving about how Root was owning the game, but he had already been dismissed for 46 with England only 136 ahead at that point. “Well, he’s out now, he got 40,” Ponting put bluntly.

Now to Australia’s chase of 283. The visitors looked gone at 227/8. But, Stokes decided to keep Joe Root bowling instead of bringing on James Anderson and Stuart Broad earlier. Instead, Cummins swung the momentum rapidly, hitting 14 runs off the 83rd over to bring the target below 50.

Eventually, Australia got home by two wickets, leaving England “feeling as though they won.” But, like New Zealand, they didn’t.

2nd Test vs Australia, Lord’s, 2023

As Michael Vaughan rightly said in his post-Rajkot analysis, don’t be distracted by the Jonny Bairstow stumping. It is not the reason England lost the Lord’s Test of 2023.

It was without a doubt their awful batting in the first innings after Nathan Lyon tore his calf. Sitting at 188/1 in pursuit of Australia’s 416 on a flat pitch in bathing sunshine, England gifted wicket after wicket, falling into Cummins’ short-ball trap instead of playing the situation.

This is not to say you shouldn’t play with freedom. However, freedom should also entail game awareness. It should give you the clarity of mind to understand that the opposition has lost the glue of their attack, and they’ll eventually change their short-ball ploy once they realise you aren’t really engaging with it.

Instead, England fell 91 behind Australia’s first innings score after which the visitors added a further 279. Despite Ben Stokes’ brilliance in front of a charged up Lord’s crowd following the Bairstow dismissal, England fell 43 short to lose another Test they should have won.

Cricket News: Jonny Bairstow run out reactions - "Village" | Reactions to Jonny Bairstow's run out during fifth day of Lord's Test
England under Stokes and McCullum: The Bairstow stumping was the big talking point at Lord’s.

4th Test vs. India, Ranchi, 2024

On a pitch that was turning and staying low, it was England’s game to lose as India fell to 177/7, still trailing by a huge 176 runs. But, England let things drift a little, allowing Dhruv Jurel and Kuldeep Yadav to get into their innings, cutting that lead down to 100.

Jurel, in partnership with Akash Deep, then brought that deficit down to 60. In the end, the 176 with three wickets in hand turned to just 46.

That being said, a total of 250 or so would have mighty difficult to chase in the fourth innings. However, as has been the case in the past 12 months, England let the advantage slip. From 110/3 and leading by 156, England collapsed to 145, playing a number of low-percentage shots against good spin bowling.

Then, more poor decision making. England chose to open with Joe Root and Tom Hartley on the third evening, where openers Rohit Sharma and Yashasvi Jaiswal knocked off 40 with incredible ease. There was a nice buffet of half-vollies and full tosses, with England again overthinking things rather than looking at what’s best strategically.

England under Stokes and McCullum: Rohit Sharma and Yashasvi Jaiswal knocked off a big portion of the target.

On day four, England were always outsiders even as they reduced India to 120/5 in pursuit of 192. Shubman Gill (52*) and man of the match Dhruv Jurel (39*) showed the calmness that has often eluded England in recent times, getting to the total courtesy of an unbroken 72-run stand under pressure.

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Indeed, England not only had the aim of rejuvinating their own Test cricket, but getting the cricketing world talking about the format as a whole. They have played some excellent cricket under Stokes and McCullum, but playing the situation in key moments has eluded them.

England’s next assignment is the fifth Test at Dharamsala before they play six Tests at home later in the year against West Indies and Sri Lanka. With due respect, they are two teams you’d expect England to beat, but how they’ve fared in their two biggest series over the past six months leaves a bit to be desired given the missed opportunities.

Charbel Coorey
Charbel Cooreyhttps://cricblog.net
Charbel is the owner & founder of cricblog.net, based in Sydney, Australia. He started the website to fulfill his love for the game of cricket. Charbel has also been featured on other publications including OP India, Times of India, and The Roar, among others. For any story tips or questions, you can contact Charbel at charbelcoorey@cricblog.net.

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