England Captain Ben Stokes I had no doubts to ask New Zeland continue despite the brave struggle of the home team Wellingtonwith assistant coach Paul Collingwood insisting that the attacking option is always the first choice.
In the middle of the third morning, Stokes sent the home team back to the club with a 226-round deficit, hoping for a series-rending win before the day was over.
This was completely in line with the trajectory of his reign, where he pulled every available lever to press for positive results, including his bold statement earlier in this match.
So far this mentality has served England well with 10 wins from 11 Tests under his leadership, but New Zealand has done its best to derail their plans. On the stumps, they were just 24 to three in 202, with a 149-lap stop between openers Tom Latham and Devon Conway putting hard yards into the bowlers’ legs.
There is more work ahead of them to consolidate their advantages, but Collingwood said: “Everything was very clear this morning. Stokesy spoke to the guys and said, ‘If we have a chance to continue, we will implement it.’
“He was very clear on that and that was the approach of Stokesy and Baz (McCullum, head coach). They want the aggressive option and hope to win the game today. It didn’t happen, but we’re still in great shape.
“The mantra of this team is to always take an aggressive approach and there was no doubt in Stokesy’s mind that he would go that way if we had the opportunity. We’ve always said we weren’t afraid to lose but we want to put ourselves in a winning position and felt we could win or come close to winning today.”
Despite England’s 94.2 times more laborious and strenuous work during the day, the versatile Stokes took only two of them. He has been managing a longstanding knee problem for some time and is increasingly having to split his tackles with the ball.
Here, after tea, he managed two hard and prepared hits, being warned and off the ball for playing too many bouncers bowling, and finished the spell after Jack Leach made the much-needed breakthrough at the other end.
“Look, he has a knee giggle as we all know, fortunately the captain over there decides if he and he bowls,” Collingwood explained.
Stokesy was happy to go for other options and has a lot of confidence in his team and other bowlers. It was a beautiful day. Yes, he’s left it a bit short a few times, so that’s his only caveat out there. If he goes to this plan again, he will have to be careful.”
Having won all of their last four games against the Black Caps last year, England imposed their own style on the reigning Test world champions, but were prepared for their belated resistance at the Basin Reserve.
“When you face a quality opponent, you expect them to fight hard, and that was one of those days,” Collingwood said.
“There will be days when it’s hard work and this is Test cricket. He arranged a match that could be a fascinating and a great Test match.”