Ollie Pope hails 'unbelievable' Ben Stokes ahead of England captain joining 100 Test club

Series against India on knife-edge at 1-1 with third match starting in Rajkot on Thursday

Ben Stokes has scored 6,251 runs and taken 197 wickets since making his Test debut for England in 2013. Getty Images
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Ollie Pope has hailed England captain Ben Stokes for the “unbelievable achievement” of reaching 100 Test matches in his glittering career.

England take on India in the third Test in Rajkot on Thursday with the series on a knife-edge at 1-1 after the hosts hit back from losing a dramatic opening match by securing a 106-run victory in Visakhapatnam.

The two sides then took a break that saw England return to Abu Dhabi to recharge their batteries and spend time with their families before returning to action.

Both matches showed off the attacking intent England have adopted since Stokes teamed up with head coach Brendon McCullum – a combination that has galvanised the country's red-ball team.

Stokes boasts 14 victories from 21 Tests – no one who has captained England on 10 or more occasions in the format has a better win percentage (66.67) – and his revolutionary effect has been praised by Pope.

All-rounder Stokes, who is playing in the series solely as a batter after recovering from knee surgery, has scored 6,251 runs and taken 197 wickets since his Test debut in 2013.

“It’s unbelievable,” England’s vice-captain said. “For anyone to play 100 Tests is an unbelievable achievement. He’s had his highs and lows but what he’s done since he’s been captain has been amazing.

“Stokesy is not someone who likes it being all about him. He doesn’t need those accolades but away from the ground I’m sure we’ll celebrate him, get around him and think of something to do.

“He’s changed the game in a lot of respects. He just has a way of bringing out the best in himself when the team needs him the most.

“There have been so many unbelievable memories and hopefully he can play 100 more. He’s been great to watch, great to be a part of and hopefully there’ll be many more special moments in his career.”

Pope, meanwhile, says there is “every chance” the tourists will field an extra seamer in Rojkot due to covering of green grass visible on the wicket on Tuesday.

England used only one specialist fast-bowler for the opening two matches – in Mark Wood and then James Anderson – when they went with the inexperienced spin trio of Rehan Ahmed, Shoaib Bashir and Tom Hartley.

“If it stays like that, there's every chance two seamers will be played,” Pope told BBC Sport. “I don't want to give away too many secrets, but at the minute there's a little bit more grass on it. It looks a pretty good pitch.

“We always like to make a decision here the day before the Test begins because conditions can change, especially with the heat on it all day.”

England are confident that Ahmed's visa issues will be sorted out before the match after the young spinner ran into problems following the team's return to India, as did Bashir before the series.

All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja is set to return for India with the 35-year-old making good progress from the hamstring injury he sustained during the first Test in Hyderabad.

“He's doing his routine. He did one session yesterday as well. I think he's available,” spinner Kuldeep Yadav told reporters.

Jadeja's return could mean Kuldeep or Axar Patel make way, although there is a chance the trio could all feature as batsman KL Rahul is ruled out with a right quadriceps problem.

India will be without Virat Kohli for the rest of the series due to personal reasons while England are missing spin spearhead Jack Leach due to a knee injury.

Updated: February 13, 2024, 1:10 PM