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England-Ireland Series

Stokes tries to allay fitness fears ahead of Ashes



ছবি : Ben Stokes

|| AFP ||

Ben Stokes attempted to calm concerns over his fitness ahead of the Ashes after an England 10-wicket warm-up win over Ireland inside three days at Lord's where he neither batted nor bowled.

England captain Stokes declared with the hosts on 524-4, meaning he didn't have to bat.

And having struggled with a left knee injury since England's tour of New Zealand in February, the paceman also opted against bowling himself in this lone Test.

The all-rounder looked as if he might become the first England captain since Harold Gilligan 93 years ago not to bat, bowl, hold a catch or make a stumping in a Test.

But Stokes avoided joining an exclusive club when he caught Curtis Campher off part-time off-spinner Joe Root during Saturday's morning session.

The way he then hobbled to join his celebrating team-mates was a worrying sign, however, with the Ashes opening against Australia at Edgbaston in less than two weeks on June 16.

Nevertheless, Stokes told a post-match news conference on Saturday: "I bowled this morning (in the nets) for the first time in four weeks and I felt really good. I was real happy with how I bowled.

"I bowled for about 20 minutes and I got through that really well. Obviously I have got time to build up before I push back into flat out but I just landed quite awkwardly when I took that catch.

"I didn't quite see it so had to adjust myself and landed on my left leg. It twisted in a really strange way but it was fine, I just don’t know what really happened.

"It was one of those things, but I am 32 tomorrow (Sunday) so that probably explains it," added Stokes after England's 11th win in 13 Tests since he joined forces with coach Brendon McCullum last year.

England had been well-placed to win by an innings when play resumed Saturday with Ireland 97-3, still 255 runs adrift.

But they met with determined resistance for much of Saturday's play, including a record stand for Ireland in Test cricket of 163 between tailenders Mark Adair and Andy McBrine.

Unfortunately for Ireland, neither batsman was able to reach three figures and so gain a coveted place on the Lord's honours board, with Adair bounced out for 88 and McBrine stranded on 86 when last man Graham Hume was bowled.

Ireland have now lost all seven of their Tests but there were encouraging signs at Lord's for a side whose sights have long been set on an upcoming qualifying tournament for this year's 50-over World Cup in India.

"I thought the guys played well," said Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie. "We showed glimpses today and can be proud of that.

"It's hard to come here before the Ashes but these are the fixtures we've been given," he added as he turned his attention to the qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe.

"It's a huge event for us, a lot of focus on that for us. (Now we) dust ourselves off, get on a plane and hopefully produce good cricket."