Hobbling in field and no-ball drama – strokes struggles with fitness and form

Hobbling in field & no-ball drama - England's Ben Stokes struggles with fitness and form

Stokes (right) also scored just five runs with the bat in England's first innings

It was a frustrating second day of the first Ashes Test for Ben Stokes with the England all-rounder struggling with form and fitness at the Gabba in Brisbane.

Wicketless Stokes conceded 50 runs from nine overs as Australia ended the day on 343-7, in reply to England’s first-innings score of 147.

The 30-year-old – playing in his first Test since he took a break from cricket in July to protect his mental wellbeing – was hobbling in the field in the 29th over after chasing a ball hit down the ground.

“Our medical guys will assess him overnight and see how he is,” England bowling coach Jon Lewis said at the close of play.

Stokes – playing in his 72nd Test – remained on the field but did not bowl again for 38 overs.

When he returned to the attack for a three-over spell in the evening session, Stokes looked hampered by the injury and struggled for fluency, conceding back-to-back boundaries in an over by Travis Head, who finished unbeaten on 112.

“It’s always tough when a seamer goes down, especially in these conditions,” England fast bowler Ollie Robinson told Test Match Special.

“He [Stokes] has got something that not all of us have – he’s got that pace and bounce – so it hurts us a little bit. The other boys took the slack and I thought it was a good effort in the end.”

Undetected no-balls cost England

In Stokes’ fourth ball of the innings, he bowled Australia opener David Warner – who was on 17 at the time – only for the decision to be overturned by the TV umpire for a front-foot no-ball.

Replays then showed the seamer had overstepped the mark on the three previous deliveries, but was unaware of the misjudgement in his run-up as no-balls were not signalled by the on-field umpire.

“It would have been nice for his first ball to have been called a no-ball so he could have then made an adjustment and his front foot would have been behind the line,” Lewis said.

“What a fast bowler needs is some kind of understanding where his feet are because obviously you can’t see your own feet.”

In total, Stokes bowled 14 undetected no-balls in his first five overs. The only one called correctly was the one from the TV umpire which overturned Warner’s dismissal.

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting, speaking on TV commentary, labelled on-field umpires Paul Reiffel and Rod Tucker “pathetic” as Warner went on to score 94.

Since February 2020, TV umpires have been tasked with checking for front-foot no-balls for each delivery in a Test, however England and Australia were both informed the technology is not working for the first Ashes Test.

While the on-field umpires are responsible for making no-ball calls throughout an innings, the TV umpire does still retrospectively check no-balls for each wicket.

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