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'He's a bit of a freak' – Wagner on Stokes
England tour of New Zealand

'He's a bit of a freak' – Wagner on Stokes

New Zealand on Thursday targeted the prized scalp of ‘freak’ Ben Stokes as they look to dismiss the visitors in the first Test at Mount Maunganui.

The New Zealand-born Stokes got in the middle when Joe Root was dismissed after scoring 2 off 22 balls.

At the end of the day, Stokes looked extremely fluent as the Durham all-rounder remained unbeaten on 67.

"He's a special talent. He's a bit of a freak at times," short-ball specialist Neil Wagner said after Stokes hammered his short balls to the fence four times.

"Everyone wants to get him out because you know what an important wicket it is... but that's my thing, we always try and strive to get the good players out."

Stokes played a vital role in England’s scintillating World Cup final against New Zealand as the home side lifted the trophy on boundary count in July.

Stokes was clinical against both short and full balls during his stay at the crease. He dispatched four boundaries off successive deliveries from Boult which included one costly drop from Ross Taylor at first slip.

New Zealanders didn’t have a great time in the field as Rory Burns survived three chances, including one which was waist-high edge between Ross Taylor and Tom Latham in the slip cordon.

Wagner feels that his side are not out of this contest yet as they need couple of quick wickets on second day to get back into the game.

"They haven't got away from us. If we can come in the morning and get a couple of early wickets and put it back on them we'll be in a really good position. I think we're happy with where we are at."

Stokes and Joe Denly (74) struck 83 for the fourth wicket partnership to give England some edge after they were squeezed by the home side bowling tighter lines and not giving away much.

Denly was troubled by Wagner on couple of occasions after the edges off his bat continued to drop short of the slip cordon.

But he remained resolute in his approach – which has been a rare sight in England’s Test batting – to continue the scoreboard ticking over.

‘We were trying to set up the game’ – Burns

Earlier, England’s opening batsmen put on 52 for the first wicket before debutant Sibley became Colin de Grandhomme’s victim.

But Denly and Burns added 61 for the second-wicket to take England ahead in the game.

Root looked a bit off color in his batting as he took 21 balls to get his first run. He didn’t survive for long after Wagner induced an edge off his bat through a wide delivery.

While Burns scored a half-century against a solid attack, he said he was satisfied with England’s performance.

"What we were trying to do was set up the game the way we have -- establish yourself and try and bat big first innings," he said.

"It's quite enjoyable really. He's a competitor and it's always a different challenge to someone who is pitching it up, swinging it, and he bowls short stuff more than fuller stuff and it's always a challenge and it's a good one to have."