Joe Root impressed by ‘brilliant’ Ben Stokes declaration as England take charge
Joe Root praised Ben Stokes for a “brilliant” and “brave” declaration against New Zealand as his decision opened the door for England’s bowlers in Wellington.
Stokes is increasingly using the tactic as a creative weapon, allowing him to manipulate the flow of the game and force opposition teams to dance to his tune.
Just as he did in Rawalpindi in December and Mount Maunganui last week, he drew an early end to the England innings and, once again, his instincts proved correct.
Root was on 153 and batting beautifully when Stokes waved him off with the score on 435 for eight, leaving a tricky 35-minute period of batting which the hosts might otherwise have escaped.
James Anderson promptly removed Devon Conway and Kane Williamson in that bonus window before lunch and Will Young just afterwards, sowing the seeds for New Zealand’s underwhelming reply of 138 for seven.
And Root, who spent more than five years taking the responsibility for those decisions as skipper, was full of praise for his successor’s ability to affect the game.
He said: “I just think it was a brilliant call from Ben. It would have been very easy for us to keep going and, if we had, we might not be sat here with them seven down now. Credit to him, he’s just walked so naturally into the role, he’s managing the game really well and everyone is responding to it.
“It just seemed a very brave and attacking option. Full credit to Ben, as you’d expect, for taking it on. The decisions he’s making under pressure, the way that he’s managing the team and his players, is as good as I’ve seen.”
Stokes had earlier batted with exactly the same attacking intent, albeit with less success. He flashed his way to a risky 27 at a run-a-ball before being caught swinging hard at Neil Wagner.
That underlined the notion that in setting the tone for his team, he is underselling his own ability with the bat in favour of making a statement.
But Root, whose form ebbed and flowed at different times during his long spell in charge, has no concerns about that.
“I think he’s doing a brilliant job of getting the best out of himself as a leader. There’s no doubt that his own performances will come,” said Root.
“He’s that kind of big game player and there will be a situation where we’ll be up against it and he’ll stand up and deliver. It’s a matter of time in my eyes. Ultimately, I think it’s more important the contributions he’s making as a leader at the minute because he’s getting the best out of 10 other players and that in itself is massive for this team.
“There were times when I was overly focused on everyone else and there were probably times when I was overly focused on myself. I think it just comes through time and experience of understanding how you manage both.”
New Zealand’s batting coach Luke Ronchi bristled at the idea that his players had been sucked in by England’s aggressive approach to scoring, after Tom Latham and Daryl Mitchell both fell to reverse sweeps.
Asked if ‘Bazball’ was in their heads, he said: “I wouldn’t have thought so. We know Baz and we know that’s a phrase that is being thrown around. But from a cricketers’ perspective I don’t think too many people pay too much interest to it.”
New Zealand will resume with three wickets in hand and another 98 runs needed to take the possibility of following on off the table.