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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Ali Martin at the National Stadium

‘The fear of failure isn’t there’: Stokes thrilled by England’s 3-0 win in Pakistan

England's squad pose with the trophy after securing a 3-0 series win in Karachi
England's squad pose with the trophy after securing a 3-0 series win in Karachi – they reached a target of 167 in just 28.1 overs to seal the third Test. Photograph: Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images

Ben Stokes believes removing the fear of failure has been behind England’s remarkable turnaround in Test cricket and a year that ended with them becoming the first team in history to claim a 3-0 series clean sweep in Pakistan.

An eight-wicket victory was secured on the fourth morning in Karachi to make it nine wins from 10 Tests under Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum. Fittingly, the captain was out in the middle when Ben Duckett crashed the winning boundary to overhaul a target of 167 that was vaporised in just 28.1 overs.

Stokes had been trying to break a world record, attempting the 108th six of his Test career to surpass McCullum’s tally from his playing days. But while he was unable to clear the rope during the 38 minutes of play, this – plus a record series run rate of 5.5 – summed up a side freed from the burden of consequence.

Stokes, who was 35 not out with Duckett unbeaten on 82, said: “It won’t really sink in until we get home or in the new year but we understand what we’ve done is pretty special. To win 3-0 out here, it will be something to be really proud of.

“I think just releasing that fear of failure is why we’ve produced the results. When you take that burden off individuals and the team, you see players excelling and showing more within themselves.

“No one is worried about getting out. You don’t want to get out … but when that fear of failure isn’t there, you’re not tentative and you make better decisions.

“It is a great time to be in this dressing room and playing for England. I’m just encouraging everyone to turn up every day and enjoy what you’re doing. Obviously it is easier to do when we are winning the way we are at the moment. We’ve had Jimmy Anderson smiling, which is an impressive thing in itself.”

The three romping victories – in Rawalpindi, Multan and Karachi – all came despite a virus swirling around the squad all tour, with Stokes stressing this particular challenge “shows the way we crack on and get on with things”.

England’s Harry Brook plays a shot during the second day of the third cricket Test match between Pakistan and England at the National Stadium in Karachi
The emergence of Harry Brook is likely to give England’s selectors much food for thought. Photograph: Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images

It was also a tour where new stars rose. Harry Brook, 23, ended his first away Test tour as player of the match in Karachi and the series following his third century, while the 18-year-old leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed stunned everyone with seven wickets on debut and a maiden five-wicket haul.

On Ahmed, Stokes said: “It takes you back to when you’re a kid. Leg-spinners are a gem to have, they can change the game and we saw that yesterday afternoon when he bowled us to victory.

“For an 18-year-old to have the ability he does – and he’s not the finished article – it’s seriously exciting. We’ve got something good on our hands, let’s let him progress and not hold him back.”

(January 5, 2022)  Fourth Test v Australia, Sydney

With the Ashes already lost, England hold out with one wicket remaining to earn a draw in Sydney

(January 14, 2022)  Fifth Test v Australia, Hobart

England collapse from 82 for one to 124 all out in the second innings as Australia make it 4-0 in the Ashes. Ashley Giles is axed from his role as team director and Chris Silverwood is sacked as head coach as a result.

(March 8, 2022)  First Test v West Indies, Antigua

With Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad left at home, West Indies stand firm on a lifeless surface and England can't force victory on the final day

(March 16, 2022)  Second Test v West Indies, Kensington Oval

England declare twice in Bridgetown but a dogged Kraigg Brathwaite denies them victory on the final day

(March 24, 2022)  Third Test v West Indies, Grenada National Cricket Stadium

Joe Root's captaincy hangs by a thread after a dismal collapse in St George's. West Indies complete a 10-wicket win and a 1-0 series victory.

(April 28, 2022)  Root resigns, Stokes appointed

Joe Root steps down as England captain after one win in 17 Tests – a fortnight later Ben Stokes is revealed as his successor. In May Brendon McCullum joins the setup as head coach

(June 2, 2022)  First Test v New Zealand, Lord's

Unburdened by the captaincy, Root scores a classy century and England get the Stokes/McCullum era off to a winning start

(June 10, 2022)  Second Test v New Zealand, Trent Bridge

With all results possible going into the final day, Jonny Bairstow’s 136 off 92 balls helps England rattle off 299 in a remarkable run chase

(June 23, 2022) Third Test v New Zealand, Headingley

Jack Leach takes 10 wickets in the match and Bairstow smashes a six to complete another staggering run chase, this time completing the blitz of a 296 target in 54.2 overs

(July 1, 2022)  Fifth Test v India, Edgbaston

In the much-delayed conclusion to the 2021 India series, England thrash their way to 378 runs in 76.4 overs, three wickets down, for their highest successful chase in 145 years of Test cricket. Bairstow scores back-to-back centuries

(August 17, 2022)  First Test v South Africa, Lord's

England are routed by an innings and 12 runs inside three days at Lord's as Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje run riot

(August 25, 2022)  Second Test v South Africa, Old Trafford

Stokes and Ben Foakes hit centuries, then Anderson and Ollie Robinson run through South Africa as England hit back with an innings victory

(September 8, 2022)  Third Test v South Africa, The Oval

Robinson again stars with the ball as England get the better of a low-scoring affair in south London to claim another series victory

(December 1, 2022) First Test v Pakistan, Rawalpindi

Four England players hit first-innings tons in a wild 657 in just 101 overs. That pace gives the bowlers time to secure a 74-run win

(December 9, 2022)  Second Test v Pakistan, Multan

Harry Brook again stars with the bat, his century helping England survive a scare to win by 26 runs

(December 17, 2022)  Third Test v Pakistan, Karachi

Another ton for Brook and England make history by becoming the first touring side to register a clean sweep in a Test series in Pakistan

On Brook, who said he wanted to give the selectors a migraine, the England captain added: “Yeah, thanks Brooky for the sore head. The way he has played, taken the game on, the runs he’s scored [468], the strike rate [93] he has scored at – it has been incredible to watch. He is a very switched-on man.”

The nature of England’s turnaround from last winter and the horror run of one win in 17 Tests has led to Stokes being shortlisted for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year and naturally given rise to great hope that England may be able to regain the Ashes at home next year.

Stokes insisted he did not want to look too far ahead given England have a tour of New Zealand in February but, speaking to Sky, he added: “I obviously have my eye on the Ashes and have got little things about that in the back of my head.

“We will just continue to grow as a team, spend more time as a unit and keep having fun; playing cricket with a smile on our face and win as much as we can.”

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