Wagner eyes scalp of 'freak' Stokes

Omnisport
England put themselves in a strong position on day one against New Zealand, who are eager to snuff out the threat of Ben Stokes on Friday.
England put themselves in a strong position on day one against New Zealand, who are eager to snuff out the threat of Ben Stokes on Friday.

Ben Stokes is the scalp most prized by Neil Wagner after the England batsman finished day one of the first Test with New Zealand on 67 not out.

The tourists overcame a slow start and recovered from 120-3 to reach 241-4 by the close at Bay Oval.

Stokes – described by Wagner as "a bit of a freak" – was key to their revival, compiling his timely knock patiently as he faced 114 balls, sending nine to the boundary rope.

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The all-rounder has proven a thorn in the Black Caps' side before, most notably in a superlative display at the Cricket World Cup final in July.

And left-arm seamer Wagner is determined not to give Stokes any more footage for his ever-expanding highlights reel.

"Ben is that sort of a player," said Wagner. "He is a special talent and he is a bit of a freak at times.

"For us, everyone wants to get him out because you know how important a wicket he is."

At the top of the order, Rory Burns made a half century but could have been sent packing with only 10 runs to his name when he appeared to edge Trent Boult.

However, the appeal was tame and dismissed, with no review taken, which proved a mistake – although an understandable one, according to Wagner.

"It's quite a tough ground. There was another one that sounded like a nick and was nowhere near the bat," he explained.

"When it's windy – and you don't always feel that from the grass banks – it's quite hard to hear those things.

"There was a little bit of a noise [for the Burns chance] but it was a bob each way; [sometimes] you want to take that risk but also you want to keep hold of them for when you do need them."

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