Anderson and Leach bring New Zealand to their knees after Roots unbeaten 153

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Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Ben Stokes has abandoned warm-up cricket, scaled back his training and, in response to a chronic left knee problem that might have prompted a stoppage earlier in his career, the all-rounder has reduced his bowling to moments of absolute necessity.

That’s not to say Stokes has stopped investing. Not even close. The point here is that the less the England captain cares about maintaining his own performance, the more this team takes on some of the less quantifiable aspects of his cricket: the aura, the game-changing interventions and that unrelenting drive.

Related: Joe Root says his 153 was a payback to England: ‘I owed it to the group’

It may be that a team like Australia, once freed from the tumultuous spin cycle they are experiencing in India, may find a way to bounce back this summer. But much like Pakistan last December, New Zealand have found that collective residual glow under Stokes on home soil overwhelming, with days like the second in Wellington – one where 12 wickets fell and England vice-like gripped proceedings – a falling point.

Once again, Stokes tried to push forward by pulling the plug early in England’s first innings. And at the pelvis, much like the mountain, it meant the hosts went down the Gurgler. After Joe Root hit an unbeaten 153 leading to 435 for eight after Harry Brooks’ riotous 186 finish, New Zealand fell to 138 for seven before rain again interrupted the final session.

Not everything was about the unquantifiable. After dousing the threat with precision at one end of the first day while Brook brutalized the bowlers at the other, Root was mischievously inventive the next morning. Jimmy Anderson, back in town where his career really took off in 2008, was flawless as he won three wickets with the new ball. The best captains usually have the best players available.

Joe Root walks away after setting up another attacking statement from Ben Stokes and England. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

But as Stokes said before the series, these days he’s less interested in being one of them himself, preferring to focus his energies on encouraging others. His 28-ball 25 when England added 120 for five matched his captain’s ultra-aggressive, borderline-insane hitting; that sharp-eyed 103 he made against South Africa at Old Trafford was the breakaway during that period.

Anderson, meanwhile, is somehow better. Just check out the test bowling leaderboard. As was the case all those years ago when he and Stuart Broad began their epoch-defining alliance at the Basin, he rushed south coming down the Adelaide Road. But where the 40-year-old infiltrated New Zealand with momentum, this time it was about the wobbly seam, about balls sticking back and forth from the surface.

Related: New Zealand v England: second test, day two – how it happened

The first two came during the challenging 35-minute task set by Stokes for New Zealand’s top order before lunch. It was also thanks to Ollie Pope on a day when his shock of red hair was regularly tousled by teammates.

Devon Conway, a top-notch operator with a top-notch 103 average on this floor, was seemingly beaten with the third ball. But although there was no roll call from behind the tree stumps – Ben Foakes might still be thinking about his earlier slapstick stomping after a duck – Pope was convinced he heard a noise. Stokes had faith in his unofficial vice-captain and was confirmed when a tremor appeared on the Snickometer.

Kane Williamson lasted little longer, tickling a loose rearfoot drive to the England wicketkeeper. When the recalled Will Young was undone by another beauty just after lunch, Anderson, this time pulling him away from a right-hand corner and tickling the glove, New Zealand had caught England’s start on day one with 21 for three.

Jimmy Anderson celebrates after taking the wicket from Kane Williamson before lunch on Day Two.

Jimmy Anderson celebrates defeating Kane Williamson’s wicket before lunch on Day Two. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

From here the two innings diverged, with New Zealand losing their next four for 82 in 27 overs. Broad struggled with his line first, but in his place, Ollie Robinson sent a string of four girls down to see the hosts falter. As soon as Anderson was sent to pasture, Jack Leach unbroken twirled away from the same Vance stand end returning figures from 12 overs, three for 45.

Leach had some grip to work with but two solid lefties in Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls should have been difficult to pull out. Instead, a once-terrified weirdo whom Stokes was able to coax like a horse whisperer saw both men fall into reverse and stalk away, feeling that fate was against them.

Latham’s death for 35 led to some boos from supporters, who were caught slipping off the gauntlet and saw that was confirmed on review. The replay was not final, the third referee, Aleem Dar, had to determine if there was contact with the armguard (not off) or the armband (off). In the end, he felt unable to knock his fieldmate over.

There was little doubt for Nicholls, whose encouraging 30 ended with an under-edge that popped to a pope with a shortleg on 30. Somehow, however, Pope topped that with a rather remarkable one-handed reflex take on a stupid point-off of newly arrived Daryl Mitchell – the kind tight catchers dream of.

When Broad made another attempt after the tea and Michael Bracewell made an immediate return catch, it summed up New Zealand’s inability to contain power with England. Alongside Tom Blundell, Tim Southee made a counterattack before the heavens opened, but his counterpart is the team-forming captain.

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