Stokes defends controversial declaration after Ashes defeat
Ben Stokes defended his decision to declare England’s first innings at 393-8 after their two-wicket defeat to Australia in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston.
Joe Root was unbeaten on 118 and, along with Ollie Robinson, had just taken 20 runs off a single Nathan Lyon over when Stokes called his batters in on the first evening, leaving England 20 minutes to bowl against Australia’s openers.
Robinson and Stuart Broad bowled two overs each, which Usman Khawaja and David Warner survived to finish the opening day on 14-0, with Khawaja going on to make 141 in the first innings.
Stokes’ decision came under scrutiny in the media, with former England captains lining up to say they would not have declared in the same circumstances. And in the context of England’s narrow defeat late on the final evening, his declaration was questioned again.
Speaking on the BBC’s Test Match Special, former England captain Michael Vaughan said he would “guarantee” that Stokes would not make the same declaration in the second Test if the circumstances arose.
“Those 30 or 40 runs…” Vaughan said. “If you’d have asked Ben Stokes this morning, ‘Would you have liked Joe to have got another 30 on that day one, you’ve now got them in the bank?’ Of course [he would].
“I will guarantee at Lord’s, if they bat first and they’re 393-8 with 20 minutes to go, I will guarantee that they’ll carry on batting… not with Joe Root 118 not out.”
But at his press conference, Stokes said: “If we were in the same position? Yeah. I would like to be 398 for 6 [sic] with 20 minutes left. That would be great.
“I could also turn it around and say, ‘if we didn’t declare, would we have got the excitement that we did at the end of day five?’ I’m not a hundred percent sure, but I’m not going to be looking back on this game as ‘what ifs’… the reality is, we just didn’t manage to get over the line.”
Australia’s captain Pat Cummins, who hit the winning runs and took four second-innings wickets in leading Australia to victory, said he would “probably not” have declared in the same circumstances.
“I wasn’t overly surprised,” Cummins said, “But the wicket felt pretty good, so I thought every run was pretty much needed in that first innings.”
Stokes explained that he had sensed “an opportunity to pounce” on Khawaja and Warner, and that he would not alter his bold captaincy style simply because of the opposition and the nature of Ashes series.
“I thought that was a time to pounce,” Stokes said at the presentation. “I am not going to change the way I have gone about my cricket because it is the Ashes.
“Who knows? We could have got an extra 40 runs or lost two wickets in two balls. I am not a captain who gets by on what ifs.
“We saw it as an opportunity to pounce on Australia and really start day two on top.” (ESPNcricinfo)