Everyone knows Ben Stokes has history with New Zealand.
The Christchurch-born son of an NZ Kiwis league international opted to play his international cricket for England, where he grew up, and has proved a thorn in the side of his birth country ever since.
Who can forget that horrible day in July 2019, when he hit two sixes – including a flukey deflection off his bat that ran to the boundary for byes – in the final over of the Cricket World Cup final to tie the game against the Blackcaps, then batted to another tie in the super over, before England were eventually declared winners on a boundary countback.
Stokes was crowned Man of the Match, as the Blackcaps shed tears of frustration midpitch.
Now sitting on the other side of another incredibly tight contest against the Kiwis – a historic one-run test defeat, after forcing his rivals to follow on – the England captain can barely supress a smile of celebration for his familiar adversaries.
“When you have the mindset in terms of what we want to do, to try and give ourselves the opportunity to win games all the time, you have to lose games to appreciate how good it is to win games,” said Stokes.
“If you are going to lose games, you’d like to be involved in a game like that, than by 200 runs. I think everyone’s just appreciating this week for what it was.”
Under new coach Brendon McCullum – himself, a former Blackcaps captain – England have changed the modern face of test cricket, with a high-octane style that had produced 10 victories from 11 tests in less than 12 months.
They plundered the NZ attack for more than five runs an over at Mt Maunganui – an unheard of run rate in tests – to win on the fourth day and appeared unstoppable, as they rolled towards an inevitable series triumph.
Even as their grip on world test trophy slips away, New Zealand have proved a more traditional approach to the five-day format can still succeed against the ‘Bazball’ juggernaut.
With Stokes at the helm, and McCullum and former Blackcaps spin bowler Jetan Patel on the coaching staff, there may just be a few fists being pumped with pride in the England dressing sheds at what just transpired.
“Gosh, what a game,” said Stokes. “After I got out, watching what unfolded afterwards was massively up and down.
More to come