Ben Stokes hailed England’s 28-run Test win over India as the best performance since becoming captain as pundits and fans hailed it as “amazing” and “amazing”.
Ollie Pope’s 196 set India 231 for victory but Tom Hartley fired England to victory as he took 7-62 in his Test debut.
“We’ve had a lot of fun times as a team, a lot of great wins,” Stokes said.
“But given where we are, and who we’re playing, I think it’s our biggest win since I’ve been captain.”
Stokes said England were “proud” to secure a memorable victory in India but warned his players not to let the result be a one-sided affair.
England’s second Test in their five-match series begins in Visakhapatnam on February 2.
“Before the series started, we knew how much of a beast India are at home,” Stokes said.
“But the way we responded that we were so far behind, it was a testament to everything we’ve said, lived and breathed for the past two years.
“But we’ve got four Tests left. I’m backing the system now. We know India will come back hard.
“They are a very difficult team but if we can continue to fight them, it is a good sign for us. We are proud to be 1-0 up but there is a long way to go.”
BBC cricket reporter Jonathan Agnew: “This is one of the best results you can get, especially for India. For India to have a convincing lead of 190 in the first innings and lose the match by 28 runs is incredible. This is difficult.
“It’s unprecedented. It’s been fantastic. Tom Hartley has gone from zero to hero. India have a lot of questions to answer when this is over and England will really enjoy their night.”
Former England cricketer Mark Ramprakash: “It was a fantastic win. Ollie Pope, for me, was the difference between the two teams. Tom Hartley was brilliant but it was Pope’s innings that allowed England to pull through when they all looked lost.
“They fought and threw with such confidence, and quickly with low ties. It put England ahead of the game.”
Former Indian wicketkeeper Deep Dasgupta: “A very good Test. At the end of the day the braver team won – the team that dared to take more chances than the other. I think that was the story of the Test match as far as I was concerned.”
England’s greatest historical success figures
- England became the first visiting team to score 400-plus in the third innings against India, becoming the last team to do so when they made 406 in Ahmedabad in November 2012.
- India lost a home match where they scored 100 runs or more for the first time in 106 matches after winning (70) or making 35 of their previous 105 individual games.
- England have now won 15 Tests in India, most by visiting teams, surpassing Australia & West Indies’ total of 14.
- India’s first lead of 190 was the second biggest they had in a Test defeat. Only the 192-run he had against Sri Lanka in Galle in August 2015 was huge.
- Tom Hartley is the 55th English player to take five wickets in Test matches and only the sixth player to take seven wickets on debut. The last English player to take seven wickets on debut was Dominic Cork against the West Indies at Lord’s in June 1995.
Pope’s ‘specialty’ ‘excellent in Indian conditions’
Pope had already struck on the third day as his unbeaten 148 helped England settle into the match.
He also began to lay the foundations for a total that would give England a chance to win, falling four times short of qualifying double centuries.
It was remarkable that Pope played his first match since dislocating his shoulder in the second Ashes Test at Lord’s last summer.
Stokes called it “the best innings played by an English batsman in the subcontinent” while Indian captain Rohit Sharma called it a “special innings” and “one of the best I have seen in Indian conditions by a foreign batsman”.
And the Pope, humbly mocked its meaning and added: “I mean it’s a great compliment but I don’t think it’s settled yet.”
“It’s big but I’m sure someone has played better, maybe even better.
“My second draft is not good and it was well written, so it’s good to get that monkey off my back.”
Hartley reciprocates the faith shown by Stokes
Left-arm spinner Hartley faced challenges from day one as he became the first England bowler to see his first dismissal in Test cricket after hitting a boundary for a six.
Lancashire’s spinners have not had an easy life playing in England in recent years, but Ormskirk-born Hartley showed on day four when he dismissed four of India’s top five, before returning to deliver the coup de grace.
Stokes said “he offered to give it to him [Hartley] those long words” in the first few words and he knew if he “gave him the confidence” to explain himself he would come back better.
Hartley repaid Stokes’ faith in spades. His 9-193 in this match is England’s best since John Lever in December 1976 (10-70 v India) and the highest by a spinner since Bob Berry in 1950 (9-115 v West Indies).
“After the first innings, I was thinking to myself, this is a tough job! It was tough out there,” Hartley said.
“It didn’t go around as much as we thought, but it’s a testament to Stokesy and the coaches. They went around me, and I haven’t lost any confidence – I can just go out here and do the best I can.”
‘One of the best sports teams in the world’ – how the fans reacted
Arvind: This England Test team has to be one of the most successful teams in the game in the world. They have changed the game over the past few years. Not many teams can say that. They are up there with Chicago Bulls, Ferrari in F1, Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson, Roger Federer etc.
Dean at Cardiff: What makes this win even more special is that the management went with Hartley, and stayed with him even after the first innings said he was out of his depth. That kind of ability, that kind of confidence in a player who doubts himself, is why England won. This is the best overseas innings ever seen in India.
Matt: What a Test match win! Back to the wall for his part but absolutely class from England the last two days! Amazing success in India, is not easy to achieve.
Stevie: This England team can win anywhere…and other teams know it too. Stokes and McCullum have turned England into mental monsters!
Lee in Camberley: 99.99% of pundits, former pundits and fans blamed Stokes for his handling of Hartley’s debut. It shows how much difference the room and Stokes’ and McCullum’s make to the team, and how it allows the players to flow.