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Ollie Robinson reveals that copying skipper Ben Stokes’ fitness regime got him back in the Test groove

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When Ollie Robinson helped brush away South Africa’s tail on a raucous Saturday afternoon in Manchester, it was hard not to recall his previous experience in an England shirt.

On a dark evening in Hobart in January, he had bowled the first pitch, retreating against Pat Cummins, to confirm a 4-0 win for Australia. Things looked bad – and it soon got worse, when England bowling coach Jon Lewis publicly chided him about his condition.

Seven months later, a leaner, fitter Robinson applied his own coup de grace, completed a new-ball spell of three for three in 10 balls by bowling Lungi Ngidi for a duck, and rushed England to series squaring. innings win.

Ollie Robinson has said his obsession with the gym has made him fitter and better at Test cricket

But the contrast with the Ashes went deeper than the result. Robinson had taken Lewis’s criticism and left and became what he calls a “gym freak.”

At Old Trafford, Ben Stokes rewarded him with the new ball, leading Stuart Broad to rob the role at home for the first time since 2013. Stokes told him not to worry about that and to be himself.

So above all, the second Test felt like a glimpse into the future, and Robinson later spoke of the inspiration he drew from watching Broad and Jimmy Anderson – and how he wants a piece of it himself.

“That’s how I want to be,” he said. “I want the public to cheer for my name. It’s been a tough six months with injuries and a few self-doubts, but I’ve worked really hard, probably the hardest I’ve ever worked, to get back to this point.

Robinson said following England captain Ben Stokes' fitness regime improved his game

Robinson said following England captain Ben Stokes’ fitness regime improved his game

“I was delighted to be in this squad for the first test, and I was overjoyed to play this one. It’s just great to be back and that winning feeling… you can’t beat it.”

Robinson’s skill as a bowler has never been an issue: even after the Ashes, his 39 Test wickets had come to 21 apiece. But his attitude to fitness had made England potty. When they dropped Broad and Anderson from the West Indies tour earlier this year, they had hoped Robinson would step up.

Instead, back spasms made his trip a write-off. Stokes intervened, advising Robinson on how he had gotten into shape at the start of his own career — “mentally, physically, everything.”

Robinson explained, “My mindset changed from trying to be fit for fitness testing to trying to be fit for five days of test cricket.

“I lifted more weights, I ran on—all I did before pushing myself to the limit, as Ben said. “It made me feel much stronger in my body and gave me a lot more confidence that I can play international cricket – not just one game in a series, but game after game.”

In Manchester, Robinson was several miles per hour faster than last summer. Crucially, he kept his pace high throughout his second and third stints. And while he described Lewis’s comments as a “wake-up call,” he insisted they came from a good angle.

“I don’t think people realize that Jon and I go back a long way. He was my bowling coach in Sussex for three or four years, so we have that honest relationship where we can say what we feel. We talked about it, moved on, and it’s been what drove me for the past six months to come here today.”

It’s been a while since Robinson’s story could go on with the obnoxious tweets unearthed during his testing debut last summer, and the fitness issues that haunted his winter.

Robinson was a crucial part of England's dominant performance against visitors South Africa

Robinson was a crucial part of England’s dominant performance against visitors South Africa

But at 28, he sounds like a man who believes he’s finally turned a corner. “I had a point in Manchester when I was halfway up the pitch and I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this for 18 months, I want to do it for five, six years’.

“I’ve become a bit of a gym freak that I never thought I’d say. I wake up in the morning and I’m like, I really need to go to the gym. It has become a bit of a habit, while it used to be a chore.

‘Running three times a week, exercising three times a week, it’s just ingrained in me now. I’m not there yet, I’m not the finished article yet, but hopefully we’re well on our way to get there.”

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