', I Don't See Why Joe Loses An Amount Of Sleep' - Stokes-heats Up To Captain's Armband Requirements > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - 'I can see why Joe loses a lot of sleep' - Stokes warms up to captaincy demands

England lost the first Test by four wickets

England lost the first Test by four wickets

In the build-up to the first Test, Ben Stokes said he was not looking forward to telling two players that they would be left out of England's final eleven. He joked that he was probably going to end up quite unpopular. After the match, although Stokes said he enjoyed captaining his country for the first time in Joe Root's absence, he sounded somewhat relieved that Root was back for the second Test at Emirates Old Trafford. "Next week I don't need to make any of the decisions, so good luck Joe," he smiled.

Given England slipped to a four-wicket defeat, Stokes' performance will be analysed both for his captaincy decisions and the impact that the leadership of the team had on his own game. In the latter respect, six wickets and scores of 43 and 46 suggest that he was not unduly burdened by the captaincy, even if he would have wanted to kick on to more substantial scores in both innings. Stokes himself didn't think he changed the way he played. "It didn't change me as a player whatsoever. I still operated in the same way I feel I always do."

As a tactician, there was plenty to like. Stokes didn't over-bowl Jofra Archer on the final day, using him for 17 overs across five spells, when the temptation to keep throwing him the ball, given how well he was bowling compared to the rest of England's attack, must have been significant. Instead, Archer was used in short, sharp spells. Stokes set good fields, particularly in conjunction with Dom Bess in West Indies' first innings, mixing attack and defence, and rotated his bowlers smartly in a bid to make things happen on a flat pitch.

The biggest debate will be about the two eye-catching decisions that Stokes made right at the start of the match. The first of those was dropping Stuart Broad from England's final eleven, the leading wicket-taker in South Africa and a fast-bowler who had not missed a home Test since 2012, with Mark Wood preferred. The second was at the toss, with the decision to bat first on a dry pitch but under grey skies a tricky call which looked even trickier given the consistent movement on offer for West Indies' bowlers during England's first innings.

As you would expect, Stokes fronted up on both counts. On Broad's omission, he said: "I stand by my decision. If I didn't, what type of message does it give to the guys we picked? It was a very tough call to leave someone like Stuart out. His record is obviously phenomenal. But we made a call before a ball was bowled that I felt pace was going to be more beneficial in the long run to us winning this game.

"Obviously we lost, but I am not going to look back on this Test match and have any regrets. It shows we are in a great position to be able to pick so many bowlers and leave someone of Stu's quality out. It is a great place to be at. But I stand by my selection."

Before the start of day three, Broad gave an interview to Sky Sports and said he was "frustrated, angry and gutted" to be left out. Far from chastising Broad, Stokes was pleased with the fast bowler's reaction. "Looking at the interview he gave to Sky Sports, I thought it was absolutely brilliant," he said. "If he wasn't like that, I would be worried. To see somebody like that, who has played over a hundred Test matches and got so many wickets, to still see the fire burning inside, it was fantastic to see."

Nobody truly knows whether Broad would have made a difference to the outcome of this match but it's unlikely that he would have had much less impact than Wood who took combined figures of 2 for 110. Given the success of Jason Holder, who took seven wickets and operates in a similar fashion and at a similar speed to Broad, it may even have been that this pitch would have suited the Nottinghamshire quick better. Wood certainly didn't have his best game, being too short in the first innings and too straight in the second. But of course, all the Broad conjecture is hypothetical. He could have got 0 for 200.

Regarding the toss, Stokes said that he also stood by the decision and, with some justification, made reference to the inability of England's batsmen to capitalise on starts as the major reason for their defeat. In their first innings, seven of the top eight reached double figures but nobody registered so much as a half-century. In the second innings, England lost five wickets in eleven overs on the fourth evening when they looked likely to set West Indies a score in excess of 250 which might have been enough to win.

"We will be able to look back on that, particularly as a batting unit and understand when we get into positions like we did in the first innings and our second innings batting that we need to be really ruthless," Stokes said. "Understanding that when we are on top, to not give it back to the opposition, regardless of who that is. If we had another 60 or 80 runs to play with today, it would have been a different game. We had opportunities to do that in both innings with the bat in our hands."

After witnessing the birth of his second child, Root will be back for the second Test at Emirates Old Trafford, beginning on Thursday (July 16), and Stokes can go back to handling the vice-captaincy duties and getting some more sleep. "Last night was the only night that I really struggled to sleep because there was a lot to think about: how the game is going to end up, what's going to happen," he said. "I can see why Joe loses a lot of sleep because he's got to do that every game. I've really enjoyed the responsibility of leading the team and making decisions out there."

It might be tempting to judge Stokes' captaincy debut simply on the decision at the toss and the decision to leave out Broad. Given England lost, it is would be easy to say that they were the reasons for the defeat. Maybe they were. But nobody can say that for certain. And either way, Stokes will not back away from the calls he made. But nor will he be too unhappy to give the armband back to Root next week in Manchester.

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