New Zealand v England: Joe Root & Ollie Pope make fantastic hundreds

Second LV = Insurance Test, Trent Bridge (Day Three)
New Zealand 553: Mitchell 190, Blundell 106
England 473-5: Carrot 163*, Pope 145
England course with 80 runs
Score card

Sparkling centuries of Joe Root and Ollie Pope held England in the second Test with New Zealand on a riotous third day at Trent Bridge.

Root, in form way ahead of anyone else in the world, is 163 not out, while Pope confirmed his roster at number three with 145.

After Alex Lees fell for 67, Root and Pope skinned the New Zealand bowling to a third wicket score of 187.

But that was nothing compared to the entertainment of England captain Ben Stokes, who crashed 46 from just 33 balls.

Calm was not restored until late in the day when England added 383 runs, with the home side finishing 473-5, 80 behind New Zealand’s 553.

There is still work to be done for England, but they need to level with New Zealand first and then build a handy lead.

Their efforts on Sunday gave them a strong chance to maintain their 1-0 advantage in the series, and perhaps even a shot at victory.

‘Bazball’ gets England back in

This was the day when the influence of new England Test coach Brendon McCullum was most evident.

At 90-1 at night, 463 behind, it would have been typical for England to wilt. Instead, they attacked from the start, with every batter out for New Zealand bowling.

Aided by a real surface and a lightning-quick outfield, this was England playing ‘Bazball’ to devastating effect. The scoreboard rattled along to the delight of Trent Bridge’s energetic crowd.

New Zealand didn’t help themselves – they missed Root’s catches twice and gave a life to Ben Foakes to deal with deferment of payment to Lees and Pope on Saturday, while off-spinner Michael Bracewell was underused. The Black Caps also suffered a back injury from fast bowler Kyle Jamieson.

But this was an exciting attack by England, one that has brought this test to life and created the opportunity for a thrilling final two days.

For England to win, they will have to find a way to sack New Zealand in their second innings – a big question given the nature of the pitch.

Still, McCullum will ask them to believe that anything is possible.

Pope repays faith

Pope had failed to hit number three in first-class cricket before this series but was recalled as new captain Stokes was adamant he wanted the Surrey man on his team.

Pope repaid faith with his second Test century and, curiously, the first of his 14 in first-class cricket, made on a site north of the River Thames.

After being dropped at 37 the previous evening, Pope resumed at 51 and, along with Lees, was determined to pressure New Zealand bowling on Sunday morning.

The intent led to some nervous moments for both men and undo Lees’ when he flashed to slip for the first time after making his first test in half a century, but Pope grew in stature and dusted the edges of the wicket on both sides.

His hundred, reached by pushing Matt Henry through the covers, came out of 160 balls. At one point, with the same bowler taking the leg side, Pope pulled back to play an outrageous cut for four.

Pope was eventually undone after a long hiatus to replace a damaged pad. He slid a pull from Trent Boult to the long leg and got long congratulations from Root as he left.

Root does it again

Root is so prolific that he exhausts all superlatives. This was his 10th century since early last year and the second in as many Sundays.

It was a carefree hundred – with 116 balls the fastest of his 27 in Tests. As a result, there were loose moments – at 27 he broke second slip Tim Southee’s hands and could have been caught at 52 when a top-edged slog sweep at Southee landed between the wicketkeeper and the long leg.

There were also the classic Root features. Rhythmic footwork, urgent running and sweet urges. When he reached three figures by bringing in Daryl Mitchell from the inside, his first reaction was to laugh.

The score with Pope saw a speed of almost 4.5 one over and, after Jonny Bairstow gloved Boult from behind, Root’s time with Stokes bordered on carnage.

The captain rushed down the field to the pace bowlers and launched Bracewell for a huge six, then hollowed out in search of another maximum. Sixty-one runs were added in 56 balls.

There was still time for Root to split another 68 with Foakes, who turned a deficit at eight and was dropped by Will Young with a deep square leg at nine.

Root kept attacking until the end. His fetch from the outside of a stump to knock Southee halfway through was arguably the most daring strike of a remarkable day.

‘We are witnessing something special’

Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “We are witnessing something special. I have known Joe for years and I truly believe he is the best player in England.

“He’s such a joy to watch and he makes it so easy to hit.

“It’s just that drive and determination. You have to have an incredible appetite to keep scoring for ages.”

England all-rounder Moeen Ali: “During Covid, when everyone was on lockdown, Root got all of his layoffs and went to see where he can improve.

“He did this thing where he hit 30 overs on the bowling machine. Take a break. Then he hits 30 overs on the machine again so it can help his concentration and he can bat all day. That really helped his game .

“That’s why he’s so good and what makes him a great, and probably our best player ever. The way he trains is the most impressive.”

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “If you haven’t had a chance to watch Joe Root today, I beg you to because that was hitting poetry. Sitting and watching was an absolute privilege.”

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