England were forced to be patient on day three against New Zealand

England are left frustrated on day three of second Test against New Zealand after enforcing the follow-on, with hosts 202-3 but still trail by 24 runs – as Paul Collingwood admits the tourists’ plan was to ‘have won or got close to winning today’

  • England were forced to be patient on day three of the Test with New Zealand
  • The home side forged a defiant comeback despite England’s hefty advantage
  • Paul Collingwood confirmed England want to ‘take the aggressive approach’

There have not been many times in a year of Test cricket played in fast-forward when England have been forced to sit in and display the one ingredient they are reluctant to include in their potent ‘Bazball’ mix – patience.

They certainly needed it on the third day of this final Test after Tom Latham and Devon Conway threatened to make Ben Stokes pay for what has become a rare but totally attacking move in enforcing the follow on.

When New Zealand moved to 149 without loss in their second innings after being dismissed for 209 in reply to 435 for eight declared, there were English supporters well versed in the old ways questioning why Stokes had not just batted them out of the game.

All it would have taken was for England to bat again for two sessions in their usual ultra-aggressive way and they would have been more than 400 ahead and out of sight of a New Zealand side who were down but not quite out at the end of day two.

We know by now that is not how Stokes and Brendon McCullum want to do it. They were perfectly aware that by bowling again they were giving New Zealand their only realistic chance of getting out of trouble and squaring this series.

England were forced to be patient as they opted to bowl again against New Zealand

But, frankly, that did not bother them a jot. They mean it when they say they are prepared to risk losing to put on a show, as they proved in Pakistan, and this was the best way, Stokes reasoned, to keep the game moving and pressurise the opposition. The plan, assistant coach Paul Collingwood confirmed afterwards, was to win the Test in three days.

‘The mantra of this team is always to take the aggressive approach and there was no doubt in Stokesey’s mind that if we got the opportunity to enforce the follow on that was the way he was going to go,’ said Collingwood.

‘We’ve always said we’re not scared of losing but we want to get ourselves into a position of winning games and we felt we had a good chance with the conditions the way they were to have won or got close to winning today.’

Stokes logic, to be fair, was sound. Even though Tim Southee had delayed England on the third morning by smashing 73 off 49 balls before Stuart Broad took the last three first innings wickets to fall, his seamers were still fresh and the pitch unlikely to deteriorate.

Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson had bowled just 36.2 first innings overs between them and New Zealand looked demoralised and likely to fall cheaply again.

It did quite work out like that. Only once since ‘Bazball’ was truly ignited against these same opponents at Trent Bridge last year have a pair of batsmen kept England quiet for longer than Latham and Conway – Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique batted for 65.4 overs for Pakistan in the first Test in Rawalpindi.

Assistant coach Paul Collingwood confirmed England’s wish to ‘take the aggressive approach’

Stokes had to try everything he could think of, including bowling himself for two ill-fated overs, and almost 53 overs had passed before England finally got the breakthrough.

That was when Jack Leach forced Conway, who averaged more than hundred at the Basin Reserve before this Test, to deflect ball onto pad and saw Ollie Pope take the latest in a number of sharp catches close to the wicket.

Latham had moved past 5,000 runs in Test cricket, making him a genuine New Zealand great, before he tried to sweep Joe Root, missed and was palpably lbw, the former England captain so sure Latham was out he produced one of Broad’s ‘celeb-appeals’ before even looking to see whether umpire Chris Gaffaney’s finger was up.

Leach was to strike again when he turned one past the edge of Will Young’s bat and took the top of off-stump to leave New Zealand 167 for three and those cautious English sceptics resting a little easier.

They extended that to 202 for three by the close, now just 24 behind, but England have a new ball in their hands and still fancy their chances of wrapping this up on day four.

What must be a bigger concern is the fitness of the captain. It is one thing for Stokes to carry on with his ultra-aggressive batting even though all evidence suggests he is not giving himself the best chance to contribute big runs with the bat.

Jack Leah (L) celebrates after bowling Will Young out on day Three of the action in Wellington

It is quite another to see him bowl just two overs in which he started with a short-ball wide, was twice warned and called for no-ball for bowling excessive bouncers by Gaffaney, over-stepped and disappeared for 16 before retiring to the outfield.

Stokes repeatedly insists his chronic left knee injury is not an issue but he is barely training between matches and does not play in warm-up games anymore. It will certainly become an issue in the build-up to the Ashes if he looks less and less able to fulfil an all-round role in his side.

‘Look, as we all know he’s got a knee niggle but thankfully he’s the captain out there and decides when he bowls or doesn’t,’ added Collingwood. ‘He was trying to break the rhythm of the batters with some short stuff but we got a wicket at the other end so he changed that plan and went back to conventional bowling.’

Stokes captaincy has been truly exceptional and he has barely put a foot wrong in leading England’s incredible Test revolution but, with a £1.6million deal to play in the IPL with Chennai awaiting him after this series and then the biggest clash of all against the old enemy, the state of Stokes knee will continue to be the one elephant in England’s room.

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