Ben Stokes showed no remorse after England’s historic heavy single-run defeat to New Zealand in Wellington, insisting he has no regrets about continuing and declaring he will struggle in the Indian Premier League despite a long-term knee injury.
The versatile player became only the fourth Test captain after Australians John Blackham (1894), Kim Hughes (1981) and Steve Waugh (2001) who pushed their opponents back after the opening rounds and ultimately lost. England, set to win 258, were dropped for 256 on the final day to see the series drawn one at a time.
Kane Williamson’s masterclass turned things around in the third round before Neil Wagner completed a four-for-62, knocking out England number 11 Jimmy Anderson. Stokes, who took over as captain last year with the stated aim of making cricket entertaining, was philosophical.
“Even though we came out on the wrong side, you can’t help but feel blessed to have been part of this amazing game,” said Stokes, who and coach Brendon McCullum only suffered a loss as a leadership duo.
Further bolstered by a 226-run lead, Stokes added: “I knew New Zealand would have to play an almost perfect game to win this game.
“The conditions in which we found ourselves that day were cloudy, the gate was fine. The way we went through New Zealand’s top spot in the previous three innings, I thought it was the right decision.
Stokes himself has become a topic of discussion ahead of the Ashes summer series after he passed the second test with a knee injury that still limits him. He threw just two kicks in the game – and only nine in the series – and clearly struggled as he and Joe Root (95) nearly saw England home.
Still, Stokes intends to continue his £1.6m contract to play for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL starting on March 31, and has stressed that the franchise, coached by New Zealander Stephen Fleming, a close friend of McCullum’s, will handle his workload Work.
Refusing to make the exact diagnosis public, Stokes said: “Don’t worry, I’m going for the IPL. I spoke to Flem and he is fully aware of the situation with my body at the moment. It’s a week-to-week thing right now.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s incredibly frustrating to know that something is stopping me from performing the way I want to. I have been working hard with physios and doctors trying to get to a place where I can fulfill my role as I have been doing for the last 10 years.
Speaking to BBC Sport and BT Sport after the game, McCullum added: “He’s not moving that well at the moment but the captain is writing his own scripts and there’s no better scene to write one than Ashes. I’m sure it will be sweet.
“He’s a tough guy. He’ll find a way to get through and I know he’s determined to lead this team to Ashes glory too. We look forward to it.”
While England missed out on winning every Test of their winter for the first time in 124 years, Tim Southee may have thought of his first victory since captaining New Zealand last December.
Southee, whose first 73 innings with the bat took on more importance as the match went on, said: “It was quiet out there. It’s hard not to get emotional. It’s just great for testing cricket.
“It’s hard to get past being only the fourth team to win after being asked to continue. This is a test match that will be talked about for a long time.