Ben Stokes was “devastated” when England fell behind in the Ashes after a thrilling climax in the first Test at Edgbaston, but he was adamant their style of play could topple Australia.
With an uninterrupted 55-run streak between Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon, Australia snatched victory in a dramatic opener of the LV= Insurance series that went up and down with England right under their noses.
With England facing a difficult task after a two-wicket defeat, Stokes has seen enough in the past five days to convince him their attacking approach can bear fruit in the weeks to come.
With all the hype leading up to the series, the big question was how the philosophy developed under captain Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum would fare with the Test world champions, but showed from the moment Zak Crawley hit the first ball of the game to a foursome join England you are ready for the upcoming battle.
“I’m devastated that we lost that game but given what it’s done for the series it’s hard not to be too disappointed because it’s put together a great series,” said Stokes .
“It’s not a psychological blow at all.
“We lost but if you look at the way we’ve played compared to how the last few Ashes series have gone it shows what we’re capable of against Australia.
“Loss sucks but the way we put ourselves into it from the first ball, quite literally, shows we’re capable of keeping up with Australia.
“Even if we’re on the wrong side here, we proved that we can keep up the whole game against Australia. We still have four games to go and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
One of the main talking points of the Test was England declaring 393 points to eight late on day one – despite Joe Root winning after delivering his first Ashes Century since 2015.
But Stokes showed no remorse – he argued there was a chance to spoil Australia’s punching power, which was ultimately unsuccessful – and argued it may have laid the groundwork for the thrilling final.
“I’m a captain who saw it as an opportunity to pounce on Australia,” he said. “The way we played and played against Australia actually allowed us to do that.
“If we hadn’t explained it, would we have had as much excitement as we did at the end? I’m not 100% sure, but I’m not going to treat this game as a what if. We just didn’t make it to the finish line.”
After rain wiped out the morning session, Australia continued at the full stadium in Birmingham with 107 for three to 281 points, where both teams appeared to be on the upswing at different points.
Stokes beat Usman Khawaja as Australia shot to 209 for seven and then 227 for eight points after root caught Alex Carey, but Cummins (44-0) and Lyon (16-0) defied the growing tension to give Australia victory .
The game-defining partnership might have shattered, but Stokes was unable to keep the catch that would have been a miracle catch when Lyon were down to two.
Stokes admitted his thoughts drifted back to Headingley in 2019 when he and England were spared after Lyon missed a chance to progress at a crucial stage.
“It’s amazing how the world spins and I drop this catch and then it doesn’t end up being out,” Stokes said. “It’s crazy how things are going. It was in my hand but couldn’t stick.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster to be in the thick of it, especially for the person making the decisions, but I couldn’t be prouder of the way we’ve acted from the start of this game.”
The composition of England’s bowling attack is under scrutiny as there are only eight days between the end of the first Test and the start of the second Test at Lord’s, but Stokes has not commented on changes without commitment.
While Moeen Ali had blistered his finger on his Test recall, limiting his impact on Tuesday, Stokes, who had long been concerned about a left knee injury, was content with surviving 14 overs over the course of the Test.
“I think seven days is quite a long time to give everyone a good rest,” he added. “We’ll meet again in three to four days and see how everyone is doing.
“But I’ve been pushing my body harder than it’s been through over the past year, which I think is a great sign and a confidence boost.
“Getting through that and knowing there were four games left was a huge boost for me.”