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Can't help but be excited that we've been part of a game like that: Stokes

Last updated on 28 Feb 2023 | 06:03 AM
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Can't help but be excited that we've been part of a game like that: Stokes

The England Test captain said he doesn't regret his decision of enforcing the follow-on on New Zealand

Ever since being appointed England’s Test captain, Ben Stokes has always been very vocal about how he wants his team wants to play an entertaining brand of cricket and that’s exactly what a packed crowd at the Basin Reserve got to witness on day five of the second Test against New Zealand.

Chasing a target of 258, England lost four early wickets on day five and were reduced to 80/5 before the end of the first session. However, that’s when Joe Root and Stokes joined hands and put on 121 for the sixth wicket before Neil Wagner dismissed them in the space of two. 

The game then went down to the wire, with England’s last pair James Anderson and Jack Leach needing seven runs to keep England’s six-match winning streak alive. However, Wagner was having none of it and took the decisive wicket of Anderson to help New Zealand level the series.

"It's right up there. Going down to the last day, being in the situation of that last half an hour … it's everything you wish for. Even though we came out on the wrong side of it, you can't help but feel blessed that we've managed to be a part of that incredible game,” said Stokes.

"It's disappointing to not win, obviously. But we look at the bigger picture of what everyone's enjoyed and seen here today. It's probably bigger than the disappointment at the moment."

The flamboyant all-rounder made it clear that just because England want to entertain everyone doesn’t mean they don’t care about the results. "That's obviously a huge objective of ours," he added. 

"I don't want people to get mixed up, (because) that doesn't mean that we're not fussed if we don't win or lose. Obviously, we always want to win. It's very disappointing to lose, but you can't help but be excited that we've been a part of a game like that."

It was only the fourth occasion a team won a Test after being asked to follow-on, and the first time for New Zealand. England managed it twice, against Australia in 1894 and 1981, while India beat Australia in 2001. It was the first time England lost a Test after forcing their opponents to follow-on.

Talking about his decision of enforcing the follow-on after England took a lead of 226 in the first innings, Stokes said: "Imagine captaining in hindsight? That's nothing that I would ever do.

"It was always our game to lose once we enforced the follow-on," he added. "But the logic behind it was that our opening bowlers have ripped through their top-order for three innings in a row. We knew that New Zealand had to pretty much play the perfect game to put us in a situation like this."

Under Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum, England have constantly chased down 250-plus totals in the last innings and the skipper said they weren’t too worried about hunting down 258 on this surface. "Batting in the last innings, chasing 250 is something that we were never worried about," he said. 

"But give huge credit to New Zealand, not only to the way that they played in the second innings, but also the way that they bowled and managed to get very early wickets with not too many runs on the board

"So in terms of looking back and making my decision around the follow-on, No, I don't regret it. Other teams are allowed to play better than us and New Zealand have played better than us this week."

England’s next Test assignment is the home Ashes, starting in June, and that will give Stokes some ample time to recover from his troublesome left knee. The all-rounder didn’t look comfortable during the second Test, but is scheduled to feature in the upcoming Indian Premier League for Chennai Super Kings. Stokes feels that the shorter format will put less pressure on his knee. 

"I'm not sure exactly," he said, when asked how his knee was feeling. "There are maybe three or four months before we get to the Ashes and we've worked incredibly hard with our physios and medics to get everything right strength-wise.

"But it's been very difficult out here, especially once the Tests have started, because the games came thick and fast. But it's a good opportunity out in India to get myself into a position that I feel like I don't have to worry about my knee anymore.

"I'm not going to lie. It is very frustrating knowing that I've got something holding me back in terms of my body. It's been around for a while. It is frustrating, but we're doing everything we possibly can to allow me to fulfil that fourth-seamer role, like I was able to do two or three years ago. Hopefully, come the ashes, I don't have to worry about it."

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