NZ vs ENG: Skipper Ben Stokes Defends Decision to Enforce Follow-on After New Zealand Script Historic Win

Toby Marshall
6 March 2023
Ben Stokes

According to Ben Stokes, the England captain, he had no second thoughts about opting for a follow-on after New Zealand’s one-run victory in the second Test in Wellington, despite their historic win. After England declared their first innings at 435 for eight and New Zealand were bowled out for 209 in response, Stokes chose to send the Black Caps back in to bat on Day III at the Basin Reserve.

New Zealand managed to put 483 runs on the board in their second innings, setting a target of 258 for victory that England almost chased down on a thrilling fifth day. Stokes defended his decision, stating that it was always their game to lose once they enforced the follow-on.

He explained that the logic behind it was that their opening bowlers had consistently ripped through New Zealand’s top order for three innings in a row, so they knew it would be tough for New Zealand to put them in the position they eventually did.

Stokes also pointed out that his team had successfully chased similar targets in the past, so they were not daunted by the 258-run target. However, he gave credit to New Zealand for their exceptional performance in the second innings, stating that they played very well, especially in the bowling department, where they managed to take wickets early on when there weren’t too many runs on the board. He concluded by saying that he did not regret his decision to enforce the follow-on, and that New Zealand deserved their victory as they played better than England on that particular week.

England’s upcoming Test assignments include a one-off four-day Test against Ireland, starting on June 1, followed by the Ashes. Despite winning four out of five matches this winter, England faces concern over Ben Stokes’ fitness. His left knee caused him visible pain during a short two-over spell in the second innings, as well as during his second innings, in which he scored a gritty 33 from 116 balls before being dismissed off an off-balance pull against a Wagner short ball.

Before the series begins in June, Stokes is due to play a season of IPL with Chennai Super Kings. He may leave early to prepare for the Ashes, but he stated that he has no plans to withdraw at this stage. Instead, he hopes that the less intense workload of T20 cricket will provide him with more time to focus on his knee.

Stokes acknowledged that his knee has been problematic for some time and that it’s frustrating, but he and the team’s physios and medics have been working hard to get everything right strength-wise. He expressed that the rapid-fire games during the winter series have made it challenging, but he sees the upcoming opportunity in India as a chance to improve his knee’s condition. He hopes that he will be able to play a significant role in the Ashes as he did two or three years ago, without worrying about his knee anymore.

England Test coach Brendon McCullum shared his skipper’s views on the subject, saying that Stokes will be well looked after at the Chennai Super Kings.

‘He sees the big picture in everything, so I’ve no concerns that the skipper will be totally looked after. And I also believe that the Ashes is the script that the skipper is waiting to write, so he’ll be sweet.’

“I don’t think he’s jeopardising it (by playing the IPL). The Chennai set-up is excellent in looking after their players and they’ve a very good medical team and he will be well looked after,” McCullum was quoted saying by ESPNCricinfo.

Author Toby Marshall