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Ollie Pope applauds Ben Stokes ahead of Test milestone: 'He's changed the game'

Ollie Pope expressed admiration for how Ben Stokes has "transformed the game," as the England captain prepares for his 100th Test match this week.

England are back in India following a break in the United Arab Emirates between the second and third Tests, with Stokes set to make his landmark appearance in Rajkot in a match that starts on Thursday.

As well as being England's ace in the hole and pulling out all the stops when the pressure is at its peak, Stokes' dynamic style of leadership alongside Brendon McCullum has galvanised the national side.

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 was recognised by Pope.

"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."

England are a bowler light for the final three Tests after deciding against naming a replacement for slow left-armer Jack Leach, who has travelled back to the UK following a series-ending knee injury.

The sight of Stokes bowling gently in the nets in England training on Tuesday morning left locals wondering whether the 32-year-old would spring a surprise and return to all-rounder status.

But Pope poured cold water on the theory, with Stokes, who has not bowled competitively since July last year, still feeling his way back after surgery to his left knee 11 weeks ago.

"He's just getting back to bowling and getting his knee right," Pope said. "That's why he had surgery – just to make sure that when he is back bowling, he's going to be bowling quickly and as well as he can.

"I'd be surprised and I guess you never know. But I think he's just preparing as a batter."

Following a gripping pair of Tests in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam that has left the series evenly poised at 1-1, England have had a six-day breather in Abu Dhabi to decompress and go again.

"It's a nice way just to refresh," Pope added. "The guys are energised coming into these last three Tests.

"We've loved every bit of this tour so far. Two competitive games of cricket that have been awesome to play in. But it was a nicely timed break to recharge the batteries."

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