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India vs England: Ben Stokes praises Shoaib Bashir saying 'sky is the limit' for spinner

Shoaib Bashir now has 20 wickets in first-class cricket, half of which have come during England's tour of India; The fifth and final Test between India and England starts on Thursday, March 7 with over-by-over text commentary from 3.30am (first ball at 4am)

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Ben Stokes dismisses suggestions England lack a ruthless edge and expressed pride at how his team have fared in Indian conditions

England took a risk by bringing two inexperienced spinners on tour with them to India, and while they may not have won the series, there are still positives for Ben Stokes’ side.

When England made their squad selection back in December 2023, eyebrows were raised about whether playing uncapped duo Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir against an unforgiving India attack was a wise move.

“Bashir is very raw and he's going for experience as much as anything else,” admitted England men’s managing director Rob Key.

The 20-year-old will leave India with so much more, not least the 10 wickets he's already taken in this series.

"Shoaib Bashir, I mean, wow, what a story and what a journey," Stokes said on TNT Sports.

"Coming in and taking eight wickets in the game, getting his first five-wicket haul in a Test match against India. I mean, the sky's the limit for that guy. I'm very, very proud of him.

"Not only the way in which Hartley and Bashir performed, but their character as well.

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"It should be very, very intimidating for two young spinners at the start of his career to come out on day four and try to bowl India out for a pretty small target.

"But looking at them, you thought you're always in the game because of a wicket and not once did they take a backwards step, not once did you look at their body language or their enthusiasm towards the game and think that."

The momentum on the fourth day, much like the series altogether, swung in favour of both sides.

When Bashir dismissed Ravindra Jadeja (4) and Sarfaraz Khan (0) in back-to-back deliveries in the 39th over and was on a hat-trick, you felt for a moment England could pull off a historic victory in Ranchi.

That feeling itself is a testament to how much belief England have in Stokes - the belief in winning never dwindles until the final ball.

"I don't think anything is impossible," said the England skipper after the five-wicket defeat.

“That's the way I am as a person and as a captain," continued Stokes.

England lost to India by five-wickets on day four of the fourth Test
Image: England lost to India by five-wickets on day four of the fourth Test

"It's allowing these young guys to come into a pretty intimidating situation of Test cricket against India, who are an incredibly hard team, and play against them.

“Just allowing them the freedom to run up and treat every ball as an occasion rather than thinking about something that's already happened that can’t be changed.

“I think so far the series has brought out a lot of talent, not only for us, but also for India.

"I love Test cricket and I think on both sides, we've seen some young, inexperienced players come out and the future is great for Test cricket."

In the end, though, India's Shubman Gill (52no) and Dhruv Jurel (39no) were able to survive the spin storm with an unbeaten 72-run partnership to lead their side to victory.

India's Shubman Gill and Dhruv Jurel celebrate after clinching the series win against England on day four of the fourth Test
Image: India's Shubman Gill and Dhruv Jurel celebrate after clinching the series win against England on day four of the fourth Test

The hosts deserve praise too. They are without their best batter Virat Kohli, who misses the Test series for personal reasons, while Mohammed Shami, the leading wicket-taker in the most recent 50-over World Cup, is out due to an ankle issue.

India also rested the formidable Jasprit Bumrah for the fourth Test. The pace bowler has taken 17 wickets in this series so far.

"I've been here for two years and my message is consistent," Stokes said.

"It is about the input that everyone gives to the team. If we worry too much about the output, we are not committing as much as we can as individuals and as a team.

"Everyone in every Test match here has thrown everything they can out on the field, nothing has been left out on the field and that's all I can ask of my players."

Sky Sports' England player ratings: Fourth Test vs India

Zak Crawley 7
Ben Duckett 6
Ollie Pope 3
Joe Root 8.5
Jonny Bairstow 6.5
Ben Stokes 5
Ben Foakes 7
Tom Hartley 7.5
Ollie Robinson 6.5
Shoaib Bashir 8
James Anderson 7

Bashir now has 20 wickets in first-class cricket, half of which have come from this Test in India. His counterpart Hartley has the same amount too.

Both of the England spinners bowled excellent line and length to trouble India's batters, with Bashir finishing with a career-best five-for after India's first innings.

“You come into the series and you obviously want to win,” said Stokes. But, even in defeat, there remain plenty of positive talking points which show the greatness of this England side.

It won’t be all to play for in Dharamsala like many England and India cricket fans would have hoped. But the development of Hartley - whose first ball in Test cricket got clubbed for six - and Bashir has been exceptional to witness.

And we'll be treated to one more spectacle.

Follow over-by-over text commentary from the fifth and final Test between India and England, in Dharamshala, live on and the Sky Sports App from 3.30am on Thursday, March 7 (first ball at 4am).

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