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Ben Stokes in eye-opening scenes as England attempt to level India Test series

The England skipper looks set to break a 'pinky promise' he made to the team's physio.

Ben Stokes has been spotted bowling in the nets ahead of England's fourth Test against India. Pic: Getty/Sky Sports
Ben Stokes has been spotted bowling in the nets ahead of England's fourth Test against India. Pic: Getty/Sky Sports

England captain Ben Stokes looks set to break a 'pinky promise' he made to the team's physio after being spotted bowling in the nets ahead of the fourth cricket Test against India in Ranchi. England are reeling from a resounding 434-run defeat in the third Test - their heaviest in terms of runs since 1934 - and require victory in the fourth Test to level the five-match series at 2-2.

Stokes has battled a number of injuries over recent years that have seen him focus purely on his batting, with the England skipper even making a guarantee with England's physiotherapist Ben Davies that he would not bowl in India. However, vision has emerged from England's net sessions showing the 32-year-old sending down deliveries in practice, in a clear sign that he's set to go against that promise.

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"Whatever way we decide to go, if I feel I am capable of bowling, I will bowl," Stokes admitted. The England captain added he would buy the team physio a beer if he broke his vow but conceded that nothing was set in stone yet. "I think there is a possible chance but I will just have to wait and see how everything is," he added.

"I wanted to get a long spell in to see how everything coped whilst doing it then see how I pull up. It is all good at the moment. That is the longest I have bowled in six months. Before I went and had the surgery I was told 12-13 weeks before I could start bowling. I am two weeks ahead of that and I am quite far ahead, but there are things I have to think about other than my knee."

The 32-year-old bowled for more than half an hour in practice and said he'd been able to bowl at "100%", before being seen in conversations with team doctor Glen Rae. Stokes' decision to try and firm as another bowling option for England probably has a lot to do with the pitch in Ranchi. The England captain admits he has "never seen something like it" before, with cracks running down both sides of the wicket in a development that is sure to have bowlers from both sides licking their lips.

Ben Stokes shocked by Ranchi wicket

"I've never seen something like that before. I have got no idea so I don't know what could happen," Stokes said about the Ranchi pitch. "If you looked down one side of opposite ends it just looked different to what I am used to seeing, especially out in India...

"It looked green and grassy up in the changing rooms, but then you go out there it looked different: very dark and crumbly and quite a few cracks in it." England utilised James Anderson and Mark Wood as a pace pairing for the first time during the third Test but both bowled a lot of overs in oppressive heat and could be rotated for the match in Ranchi.

Pictured left to right, England coach Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes.
England coach Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes in discussions before the fourth Test against India. Pic: Getty

Off-spinner Shoaib Bashir could be recalled after missing the third Test, while Ollie Robinson could be an option to return for his first Test since the third Ashes Test. Another possible solution if England decide that they need to add more depth to their batting line-up could be to include Dan Lawrence, who can also offer some part-time off-spin.

If Stokes does return to the bowling rotation for the fourth Test, it would allow England to have two specialist seamers in their XI and select three frontline spinners in Tom Hartley, Rehan Ahmed and Shoaib Bashir, as Joe Root's part-time off-spin. The pronounced cracks down the side of the wicket point to a pitch that will offer plenty of turn but potentially also some wicket variable bounce from the quicks.

England's chances of levelling the series and setting up a deciding fifth Test have been boosted by a number of big-name withdrawals from the India side. Virat Kohli is still missing after the birth of his second child, while devastating quick Jasprit Bumrah has been given a rest for the match in Ranchi. Bumrah is the No.1-ranked bowler in Test cricket and the leading wicket-taker in the series, with 17 dismissals at a stunning average of 13.64. India will also be without KL Rahul, who missed the third Test with a quad injury and will once again sit out the fourth.

with AAP

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