All-rounder Ben Stokes got his full-time Test captaincy era to a winning start after defeating New Zealand by five wickets at Lord’s but insisted that England’s new era in the longest format of the game will be a long ride.
With a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, England got it thanks to Joe Root’s unbeaten 115 in a chase of 277, where Stokes chipped in with a vital 54.
“It was massively important but it’s going to be a long ride. It’s not going to happen overnight, we’ll have tough times, no doubt. But it’s about how we respond. The way that Leesy (Alex Lees) came out and played yesterday, it was only 20 but it was the best he’d looked in an England shirt,” said Stokes after the match.
“Amazing. A great Test match. It always seems to be, England vs New Zealand – especially at Lord’s. Regardless of being captain, the first Test of the summer always has a special buzz about it. It was a special week with all the build-up and to come away with the win makes it even better,” added Stokes.
Asked how things have been under new head coach, ex-New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, Stokes remarked, “It’s been pretty good. The language he (McCullum) uses in the press is similar to what he uses up in the changing room. We’re happy leaving here with a win but one thing that everyone needs to take into account is that it’s a change of mindset for everyone and it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.”
Stokes lavished heavy praise for Root, completed his 26th Test hundred and also crossed the 10,000 Test runs milestone, becoming only the 14th cricketer and just the second Englishman after Sir Alastair Cook to achieve the landmark.
“Everyone had a laugh at that incident (ball deflecting off Stokes’ bat) yesterday. The game ebbed and flowed. It was first innings vs second innings and third innings vs fourth innings, no-one had the upper hand at any stage. Scoring a hundred and 10,000 runs – what a player, what a man.”
Stokes also had praise for his Durham team-mate, pacer Matthew Potts, for picking 4/13 and 3/55 in his debut Test match. “He absolutely loved it. I got the opportunity to play three games, watching him progress in a Durham shirt. You saw the impact he had every time he got the ball in his hand. I tried to use him when I felt like I needed a wicket. He’s got an amazing attitude. Young lad, fit lad. Very exciting to see. Amazing start, hopefully it can continue.”
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson admitted that his side had arrived on day four with hopes to get some assistance from conditions but it didn’t happen. “The game ebbed and flowed the whole time. We saw how difficult it was when the ball was hard and then how much it changed.”
“Today we came here with high hopes and thought there might be some assistance from the overheads but it wasn’t to be. It’s about moving on quickly and taking the learnings. There’s always plenty to take forward.”
Williamson credited England for taking out a win and praised Root for joining the 10,000 Test runs club. “It was pretty difficult. We saw it changed a few times and thought if we could inch one out, we might be right in it. But it was a fantastic game of cricket which took an incredible innings from an amazing player to get them across the line — full credit to England. Truly an unbelievable achievement, recognising the quality of the player and also his (Root’s) longevity.”
With the second Test at Trent Bridge on June 10, Williamson promised New Zealand will come good in the next match. “Everybody wants to be contributing more. We saw the assistance with the harder ball. Definitely a lot of learning. We’ll reflect on this and look forward to the next one.”