Blackcaps v England: NZ-born captain Ben Stokes in awe of Kiwi comeback for second-test victory at Wellington

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.

Blackcaps celebrate their test victory over England
Blackcaps celebrate their test victory over England. Photo credit: Getty Images

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.

After being smashed for 110 runs off 13 overs the previous week, heart-on-his sleeve fast bowler Neil Wagner rebounded with a heroic 4/62 on the final day at the Basin Reserve, capturing the scalp of England counterpart Jimmy Anderson to wrap up the victory.

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 quietly pumped with pride in the England dressing sheds at what just transpired.

"Gosh, what a game," sighed Stokes, hindered by a knee injury and unable to produce another matchwinning performance on the day.

"After I got out, watching what unfolded afterwards was massively up and down. Then, Jimmy [Anderson] and Leachy [Jack Leach] at the end there... it was crazy, you just don't know what to do with yourself.  

Rival captains Ben Stokes and Tim Southee share the spoils
Rival captains Ben Stokes and Tim Southee share the spoils. Photo credit: Photosport

"I just think, at the end of the day, if you can't look back at that test match - even in our dressingroom, being on the losing side -  and be quite thankful you've been involved... test matches like that don't came around that often.

"Watching Jimmy and Leachy walk off, I think they appreciated that moment as well. It's not too often you see Jimmy Anderson smile on the cricket pitch anyway, but being the man to go out with two to win, you see him out there and enjoying the whole thing.

"It was just a great game to be part of."

Inevitably, there will be some second-guessing over the decision to make New Zealand bat again, after they finished 226 runs short of England's first-innings total early on day three.

"The three innings before, we managed to rip through their top order - at Mt Maunganui twice and here again - so we said early on, if we had the opportunity to enforce the follow-on we would do it," explained Stokes.

"I knew New Zealand would pretty much have to play the perfect game to win, but even then, bowling them out and having to chase 250, it was always our game to lose.

"You've got to give credit to New Zealand, not only for the way they played to give themselves 250 to bowl at, but also the way they bowled.

"Teams are allowed to be better than us, and we can hold our hands up and say, when it came to the crucial moments of the game, New Zealand were better than us. We're absolutely fine with that."  

The Blackcaps now ride that wave of emotion into another two-test series against Sri Lanka, starting next Thursday.