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McCullum: England must find way to get best out of Robinson

England head coach Brendon McCullum says England must find a way to get the best out of Ollie Robinson after the seamer’s disappointing return to Test cricket in Ranchi.

Robinson scored an important 58 during England’s first innings in the fourth Test, where the visitors won the important toss and chose to bat, but he made costly mistakes in the field and was poor with the ball.

England threatened to pull off a famous fightback led by their young spinners but India’s Shubman Gill (52no) and Dhruv Jurel (39no) put on an unbeaten sixth-wicket partnership worth 72 runs to lead their side to a five-wicket victory which wrapped up the series win.

“Everything he did leading into the Test match suggested we’d see not just the Ollie Robinson we’d seen previously but a better version of it,” McCullum said.

“He’s not just as disappointed as everyone else, he’s the most disappointed out of everyone. It’s just sport right? You have great expectations and sometimes you’re not quite able to deliver.”

“He actually twinged his back while batting, which is why in those initial couple of spells he was down on pace. It’s a tough game for him, no doubt, and he’s hurting a lot. We’ve just got to make sure we find a way to get the best out of him.”

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Speaking on the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast, Michael Atherton says bowler Ollie Robinson needs a run of regular cricket if he is to rediscover his top form

Robinson (0-54), who has an impressive Test average of 22.92, made his first appearance in the series in Ranchi but failed to pick up a wicket in his 13 overs during India’s first innings, and England captain Ben Stokes chose not to bowl him in the second innings.

His drop of Jurel on 59 was a key moment, with the India wicketkeeper going on to make 90 as the hosts moved to within 46 of England’s total after the first innings, having at one stage looked likely to face a far bigger deficit.

McCullum confirmed Jonny Bairstow will play in his 100th Test next week in Dharamsala despite not reaching 40 in the series.

England have won just four of their last 11 Tests, but McCullum is convinced his current side is better than the one he inherited in May 2022, which had triumphed just once in their previous 17 matches.

We weren’t quite good enough when it mattered

Brendon McCullum

“We’ve lost this series and we didn’t win the Ashes [last year] but we’re a better cricket team than we were 18 months ago and we’ve got opportunity in the next 18 months to do something special,” McCullum said.

“Time on the tools, experience and just keep chiselling away at any of those rough edges which creep up every now and then, which is natural, and we’ll get there eventually.”

Despite England’s result in this Test, there are still positives for Stokes’ side, particularly in the meteoric rise of spinners Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir.

The pair came into the side with a modest first-class record and have excelled on unforgiving Indian wickets.

England's Shoaib Bashir celebrates the wicket of Akash Deep on day three of the fourth Test
Image: England’s Shoaib Bashir celebrates the wicket of Akash Deep on day three of the fourth Test

Bashir has 20 first-class wickets to his name, half of which he has taken during this Test tour while his counterpart Hartley is the series’ leading wicket-taker with 20 dismissals.

Given their success, McCullum admitted it would be frustrating if their progress was stunted by a lack of opportunities at county level.

“We’ve got to keep trying to get cricket into them,” McCullum said.

“Whatever opportunity we can we’ll try and give it to them because there’s two guys there [who are] more than good enough for international cricket.

“They’re tough characters. We’ve seen both of them have big hearts. It doesn’t get any harder than it is right now and they’ve both stood up and performed so we’ve just to keep giving both of them chances.

“It will be a slight frustration of ours if they weren’t given opportunities at county level. There’s a very real possibility that might be the case.”

Lancashire signed Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon for this summer, raising questions over how much time Hartley will get at his county.

Jack Leach, who was forced to cut his series involvement short after a knee issue which will require surgery, may allow Bashir to get game time at Somerset.

McCullum added: “But without wanting to dictate to counties because they have their own agendas, when you see performances like we have out of those two bowlers throughout the series, I think you’d be slightly mad if you didn’t give them more opportunities in county cricket.”

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

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