ENG vs SA 1st Test: England captain Ben Stokes ‘absolutely fine’ after an ‘off-game’ against South Africa

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ENG vs SA 1st Test: England captain Ben Stokes 'absolutely fine' after an 'off-game' against South Africa
ENG vs SA 1st Test: England captain Ben Stokes 'absolutely fine' after an 'off-game' against South Africa

ENG vs SA 1st Test: England captain Ben Stokes ‘absolutely fine’ after an ‘off-game’ against South Africa

ENG vs SA 1st Test: After an embarrassing innings and 12-run loss in the first Test against South Africa at Lord’s, England captain Ben Stokes declared he was “totally comfortable” with his team’s “off-game.”

The Proteas prevailed in three days, handing England their first defeat under their new red-ball leadership team of captain Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum after a run of four straight victories. The hosts were utterly outplayed.

It was only England’s fourth innings loss in 128 Test matches at Lord’s, and the first since a Graeme Smith-led South Africa squad suffered a similar crushing defeat in 2003.

“It was an off-game for us, and that’s absolutely fine,” said Stokes.

“It’s not something I’m going to be throwing our toys out of the pram over.”

Before noon on Friday, South Africa had scored 326 runs in response to England’s pitiful first-innings 165. And leaving the hosts 161 runs down as England began their second innings.

ENG vs SA 1st Test: England captain Ben Stokes 'absolutely fine' after an 'off-game' against South Africa
ENG vs SA 1st Test: England captain Ben Stokes ‘absolutely fine’ after an ‘off-game’ against South Africa

Then, in a contest when England batted for just 82.4 overs in both of their innings. They crumbled to 149 all out before tea.

The aggressive run-scoring that had enabled England to chase down multiple big totals this season, notably 378 to defeat India at Edgbaston last month, was a long cry from what was happening there.

On Friday, in sharp contrast, England’s disastrous second innings featured a joint top score of 35 from opener Alex Lees and tailender Stuart Broad.

Stokes, however, emphasised that England must avoid overreacting.

“The message from me and Baz (McCullum) upstairs will be, did we commit to everything the way we committed to the first four Tests of the summer?

“If everyone can say ‘yes, 100 percent, we just didn’t execute’ then things are good. We’ll move on to the next Test match, and go out there and try to win,” the all-rounder added.

There were little indications of England’s newly discovered “Bazball” method of batting in Test matches. As South African left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj struck twice, leaving Stokes’ men in a precarious position at 38-2 at halftime.

Anrich Nortje, an express fast bowler, followed it up with an outstanding run of three wickets for no runs in 10 balls. That may have tested batsmen with stronger defensive strategies than those used by England on Friday.

The second game of this three-match series will be played at Old Trafford starting on Thursday. And Stokes, who took over for Joe Root as captain following a run of only one victory in 17 Tests, said there was no point in lingering on the defeat.

“If we hold on to this for too long, and carry baggage into the next game. We’re already one step behind South Africa,” he added. “I want us to be a team where we’re one step ahead.”

McCullum reinforced that message by saying: “You don’t go from being a good team to a bad one overnight.

“Both Stokesy and I are firm about how we want this team to play.”

The former New Zealand captain added: “The four Tests that we won recently, we were behind in each of them. And able to get ourselves back in front and put the opposition under pressure. That allowed us to go on and win.

“In this game, we weren’t quite able to do that and we went on to lose. It’s such fine margins and I’ve been around the game long enough to know you can’t over-react.

“We’ll have a good look at things among the group in the next couple of days. And then recharge ahead of Manchester.”