England captain Ben Stokes had no doubts about asking New Zealand to follow-on despite the home side’s brave fightback in Wellington, with assistant coach Paul Collingwood insisting the attacking option is always first choice.
Despite some early resistance from Tim Southee, who scored a swashbuckling 73 from 49 balls, New Zealand were dismissed for 209 and were put into bat again by England.
The hosts offered more resistance in their second innings, with Tom Latham and Devon Conway sharing a 149-run opening stand and Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls seeing out the day, with New Zealand finishing on 202-3 at stumps.
It is the first time in the series England have been placed on the back foot by New Zealand, and despite still holding a slender lead going into day four, questions might be raised about Stokes’ bold decision to enforce the follow-on.
But Collingwood insists there was no doubt in Stokes’ mind about putting New Zealand into bat again.
“It was very clear this morning. Stokesy spoke to the guys and said ‘if we get the chance to follow-on we’re going to enforce it’,” he said.
“He was very clear on that and that’s the approach of Stokesy and Baz (McCullum, head coach). They want the aggressive option and hopefully to win the game today. It didn’t turn out that way but we’re still in a really good position.
“The mantra of this team is always to take the aggressive approach and there was no doubt in Stokesy’s mind that if we got the opportunity that was the way he was going to go.
“We’ve always said we’re not scared of losing, but we want to get ourselves in a position of winning games and we felt we could have won, or got close to winning, today.”
Sir Alastair Cook said at stumps that he would not have enforced the follow-on, if only to manage the bowlers’ world load.
“I wouldn’t have enforced the follow-on. The wicket flattened out and you’re asking the bowlers to keep going and going,” he said on BT Sport.
But Steven Finn insisted it was the correct decision to enforce the follow-on, adding: “I think when they were looking at enforcing the follow-on, when they took the last wicket, they were looking at grey skies and a frail top order.
“The logic was correct, but they were unfortunate not to get through. They came up against two resilient batters.”
England’s bowlers toiled on a tough day in Wellington, getting through 94.2 overs, with Stokes bowling two of them.
He has been managing a long-standing knee problem for some time and has been managing his workload with 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’s got a knee niggle, thankfully he’s the captain out there and makes the decision when he bowls or doesn’t bowl.
“Stokesy was happy to go to other options, and he puts a hell of a lot of trust in his team and the other bowlers as well. It’s been a good day.
“Yes, he dropped it a little bit short on a couple of occasions, so that’s his one warning there. He will have to be careful if he goes to that plan again.”
England will come back on the fourth morning searching for wickets as they seek to make it five wins out of five against the Black Caps in the past year.
Follow updates from day four of the second Test between England and New Zealand on Sky Sports digital platforms from 10.30pm on Sunday.