If a captain even turns the timing of his statements into an art form, he is clearly doing little wrong.
Ben Stokes was at it again on a second day of the final Test as all went well for an England side who were already confident they would take their seventh successive victory here and their 11th in just 12 games since the start of their remarkable Test transformation.
There was undeniable cricketing logic behind Stoke’s decision to declare at Mount Maunganui on the first day of this series and allow Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad to bowl under lights in New Zealand.
But it was less clear what England would win when their captain called them in on the second morning today with Joe Root in majestic touch on 153 and England with power to add to their 435 for eight. As it turned out, it was another masterstroke by Stokes.
It gave England two New Zealand cracks with the new ball either side of lunch and Anderson exploited both relentlessly, taking full advantage of the ground conditions where he was first linked with Broad, over a thousand wickets and 15 years past.
England really topped in Wellington, while New Zealand fell to 138-7 on day two
There was unquestionable cricketing logic behind Stoke’s decision to announce on the first day of this series
Once Anderson took the first three to fall, Devon Conway and Kane Williamson in the seven overs before the break and Will Young after that, New Zealand collapsed at 21 for three, just as England had been on the first day. Only the Black Caps didn’t have a young genius in Harry Brook and an old master in Root to rescue them.
When Jack Leach, another selection success for Stokes, took three wickets himself, aided by Ollie Pope’s sharpest catch, the Black Caps were down to 96 for six – and although they were up slightly to 138 for seven through the rain a second consecutive day, it would be a huge surprise if England were now denied.
This was another exceptional day for England, even though Brook had fallen quickly, 14 short of his first double century and, most frustratingly for him, 24 short of his father David’s highest score for their Yorkshire native village of Burley.
Does not matter. Where the boy wonder had dominated on day one, Root now took over and accelerated to his 14th score over 150 plus in a Test career that has taken him 29 Test centuries with orthodoxy and a pair of firsts both backwards and right-handed, thrown in.
Root, who questioned his role in ‘Bazball’ England after the first Test, was back at his best here, timing his innings to perfection. This is exactly how he should play.
Only the captain’s input was a bit of an English setback. Stokes was in too much of a hurry again, almost floundering from ball one and reaching 27 before finding halfway through the game with a nasty swipe at Neil Wagner.
It was understandable that Stokes was so determined to set the tone for the energetic way he wants England to play when he first got together with Brendon McCullum, but everyone has now got the message. He’s too good not to at least give himself a chance to succeed before stalling.
Jack Leach took three wickets in Wellington aided by Ollie Pope’s sharpest catch
It took James Anderson just five balls to send off Devon Conway, who got the narrowest edge
It’s a minor bummer because Stokes’ leadership proves to be inspired. Really, he’s going to be another Mike Brearley in that he doesn’t need to bat or bowl to have a major impact on the way England play.
But it helps if he has at his disposal someone of the caliber of the newly crowned, at age 40, best bowler in the world in the ICC rankings. Not least because of his intelligence.
Anderson quickly realized it was too cold and stormy in the Basin Reserve for swing, which he needed to impress in that 2008 win here, so he focused on the seam to devastating effect.
The most successful sailor in world Test history struck with just the fifth ball of the innings as Conway got a lead so thin it was missed by umpire Chris Gaffaney and, to be fair, a few England fielders. Pope by point and Zak Crawley by slip seemed most convinced that Conway had touched it and when Stokes reviewed it they were proved right.
Anderson would follow that up with a classic stretch of bowling to Williamson, wobbling one over to him and them clearing the next ball to provoke a loose shot from the former New Zealand captain.
And when he returned refreshed after the break to produce an absolute beauty to take Young’s lead, Anderson had done it again, moving within sight of 700 Test wickets. Astonishing.
Before this Test, when Stokes was asked if he would consider omitting his spinner on ground always suitable for the seam and on a pitch as green as the outfield, he simply replied ‘no’. He has absolute confidence in Leach and with that comes confidence for the slow left arm that he can always play his part in this England attack.
James Anderson took the key wicket from Kane Williamson as he headed towards 700 test wickets
Leach didn’t bowl brilliantly here but he bowled well enough, he was helped when Pope Henry Nicholls grabbed backwards as he swept through his chest to the short leg and then, stunningly, took a one-handed catch on a silly point as Daryl Mitchell virtually center forward defense hit .
There may have been some luck for Leach in his first wicket too, with Tom Latham confirmed by TV umpire Aleem Dar during the assessment, although it was unclear whether the ball hit the top of his glove or armguard on the way. carrots at slip.
Broad came in red-handed to grab a return opportunity presented by Michael Bracewell, but first Test centurion Tom Blundell is still there and Tim Southee contributed some meaty blows for six at Broad. But the only real question at the end was whether England would force the follow-on or strike again on day three – either way they should win comfortably.