England captain Ben Stokes had no qualms about urging New Zealand to go through despite the home side’s valiant comeback in Wellington, with assistant coach Paul Collingwood insisting the attacking option is always the first choice.
Despite some early resistance from Tim Southee, who scored 73 from 49 balls, New Zealand were dismissed for 209 and were put at bat again by England.
The hosts put up more resistance in their second innings, with Tom Latham and Devon Conway sharing a starting stand of 149 runs and Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls seeing the day, as New Zealand finished 202–3 on stumps.
It is the first time in the series that England have been put behind by New Zealand and, despite still having a slim lead going into the fourth day, questions could be raised about Stokes’ bold decision to impose the run.
But Collingwood insists there was no doubt in Stokes’ mind about putting New Zealand at bat again.
“It was very clear this morning. Stokesy spoke to the guys and said ‘if we get a chance to continue, let’s apply it,'” he said.
“He was very clear about that and that’s Stokesy and Baz’s (Head Coach McCullum) approach. They want the aggressive option and they’re hoping to win the game today. It didn’t, but we’re still in a very good position.
“The mantra of this team is always to take an aggressive approach and there was no doubt in Stokesy’s mind that if given the opportunity that would be the path he would take.
“We’ve always said we’re not afraid to lose, but we want to put ourselves in a position to win games and we feel we could have won, or come close to winning, today.”
Sir Alastair Cook said in stumps that he would not have applied the continuation, even if it was to manage the worldwide load of launchers.
“I wouldn’t have applied follow-up. The wicket has flattened out and you’re asking bowlers to keep going and going,” he said in BT Sport.
But Steven Finn insisted it was the right decision to impose the straight, adding: “I think when they were thinking about applying the straight, when they took the last wicket, they were looking at gray skies and a fragile higher order.
“The logic was correct, but they had the misfortune of not passing. They faced two tough hitters.”
England’s bowlers worked hard on a difficult day in Wellington, passing for 94.2 overs, with Stokes bowling two of them.
He has been dealing with an old knee problem for some time and has been managing his workload on the ball.
Stokes’ spell ended after Jack Leach made a much needed breakthrough at the other end and Collingwood added: “Look, as we all know he has a little thing in his knee, luckily he’s the captain out there and he makes the decision when he plays or not t bowl.
“Stokesy was happy to go for other options and he is very confident in his team and the other players as well. It was a good day.
“Yes, he’s left it a little short on a few occasions, so that’s his only warning. He’ll have to be careful if he goes with that plan again.”
England will be back on the fourth morning looking for wickets as they look to get five wins out of five against the Black Caps last year.
Follow updates from day four of the second Test between England and New Zealand at sky sports digital platforms from 22:30 on Sunday.