Ben Stokes urges ‘fearless’ England to be role models as Azeem Rafiq scandal casts shadow over Test


When England beat India 4-0 in a four-game series 11 years ago, they rose to No.1 in the world rankings. Andrew Strauss’ team were efficient winning machines but not entertainers, except when Kevin Pietersen imagined them.

Anderson and Stuart Broad took the “bowling dry” approach, limiting the score and waiting for the opponent to make mistakes. That’s not how this team works. But the main difference is that England had a world-class spinner in Graeme Swann, capable of taking wickets in the first innings. England don’t have that, so they need the tailors to chase wickets by taking the risk-reward approach.

Stokes returns to Headingley for the first time since his 2019 exploits after missing out on last year’s win over India because he was taking a break for mental health reasons. How this ground badly needs another thrilling game to bring joy to a beleaguered club.

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Yorkshire officials have been completely anonymous at Headingley this week as they prepare to stage a Test match they won when the Azeem Rafiq scandal broke last year, a move that threatened them with financial ruin. Day one isn’t fully sold out, but Friday and Saturday will be sold out and credit to Yorkshire for the £10 juniors prize.

It was with deaf timing last week that the England & Wales Cricket Board announced news of their charges against unnamed individuals in the Yorkshire case the morning after England’s stunning win in front of a packed house on fifth day after fans rushed. free tickets. It lowered the mood around England cricket to arctic temperatures and showed the disconnect between the commercial arm of the ECB and the test team.

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There’s never a good time to post bad news, but waiting one more day would have given England the chance to bask in the glory they deserved after 18 months of misery. Now the game is counting on this team again to elevate the sport and Stokes recognizes the responsibility of the players to ensure they are entertainers.

“We have responsibility for what we do on the pitch to attract people, but we also know that we are role models off the pitch as well. All we can do is go out there and perform to our abilities, hopefully we can attract a new fanbase with what we’re doing there,” he said.

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“What we’ve been able to do over the last two weeks is quite special. There’s a reason we sold out on day five at Trent Bridge. I feel like people want to come and see the brand of cricket we play in. My challenge for the guys this week is to go out there and do it again.

Kane Williamson returns for New Zealand after missing the second test with Covid as one of three possible changes. Neil Wagner is in line to replace injured Kyle Jamieson, while left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel is also in contention.

Third test teams

England: Lees, Crawley, Pope, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Foakes, J Overton, Potts, Leach, Broad.

New Zealand (likely): Young, Latham, Williamson, Conway, Nicholls, Mitchell, Blundell, Henry, Wagner, Patel, Boult.



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