'Looking for a lead of 320'
England all-rounder Ben Stokes was the main reason why the visitors have a more than even chance of taking a 1-0 lead in the two-Test series. He starred both with the bat and the ball for England on the third day of the first Test against Bangladesh yesterday, picking up three of the last five wickets of Bangladesh's first innings before rescuing England from a precarious 62 for five with a classy, assured knock of 85. The result was a 45-run first innings lead in the morning and a second innings lead of 273 with two wickets in hand at close of play.
His innings was all the more remarkable because he played the spinners much more assuredly than any of his top-six teammates on a Chittagong dustbowl.
"I think so. All the training that I have done has put me in decent stead for conditions like this," said Stokes when asked if this was the best he had played against spin. "We can hit boundaries, but the hardest thing to do is defend when you first come in. Today I thought my defence was pretty tight when I first went in, so the training's been helping."
The attack-defence balance was a particularly impressive feature of Stokes's innings, with the left-hander committing fully to a tight defence and holding nothing back when a bad ball came his way.
"It wasn't a case of scoring at a huge run rate -- just slowly rotating the strike and making sure we are still ticking over, not taking too many risks," Stokes said of his 127-run sixth wicket stand with Jonny Bairstow. "At the same time also making sure that we are switched on to be able to put the bad balls away. We knew that if we kept rotating the strike then the fielders around the bat would have to go away to stop the singles. After being 40 for four we'll take being 270 ahead."
For his bowling success -- Stokes had first-innings figures of four for 26 -- he credited designated ball maintainers Alastair Cook and Joe Root for keeping the ball shiny on one side and rough and dry on the other, enabling it to reverse.
"If we can get up to a 300, 310, 320 lead it would be nice. We are lucky that we have a really strong batting line-up," said Stokes. "They've got a few left-handers which is going to be tough with the two off-spinners that we've got. So if we can get 320 it would be nice and hopefully we can bowl them out."