NOTTINGHAM: Joe Root swaggered to a majestic 163 not out and Ollie Pope hit his highest Test score of 145 as rampant England reached 473-5 against New Zealand at close of play on the third day of the second Test here at Trent Bridge on Sunday.
Replying to New Zealand’s mammoth first innings score of 553, Root and Pope took full advantage of a docile pitch with a blistering run-spree.
Thanks to the pair’s commanding displays, England are in position to match or pass New Zealand’s total in a Test that could be destined for a high-scoring draw with two days left.
Freed of the oppressive shackles of the England captaincy after handing the role to Stokes earlier this year, Root was in vibrant mood as he unfurled his full array of strokes in his 27th Test century.
Needing only 116 balls to reach his fastest Test ton, Root has picked up where he left off at Lord’s with a second successive century.
His match-winning 115 not out led England to a thrilling five-wicket victory over the Test world champions in the opening game of the three-match series.
Bolstering his case to be regarded as England’s greatest ever batsman, Root’s fourth Test century this year took the 31-year-old into rarefied air.
He passed Pakistan’s Younis Khan and India’s Sunil Gavaskar during his innings to become the 12th highest run-scorer in Test history.
Pope’s second Test century came after he was handed a surprise promotion to number three by England captain Ben Stokes at the start of the series.
It was Pope’s first Test ton since scoring 135 not out in South Africa in January 2020.
The 24-year-old’s England place has been in doubt at times due to shoulder injuries and a lack of form.
But, batting in a position he had never previously occupied for England or Surrey before the first Test, Pope repaid the faith of Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum.
Earlier, Alex Lees compiled his highest Test score of 67 to set the tone for England’s prolific day, which featured 383 runs in total.
Just before lunch, Root escaped when he top-edged Trent Boult to Tim Southee, who allowed the ball to squirm through his hands as he raised them high above his head in a failed bid to make a tough catch.
Within touching distance of his ton, Pope whipped Boult through mid-wicket for four and reached his milestone with a comfortable drive for two.
Joy and relief were etched on Pope’s face as he soaked up the crowd’s applause and received a warm embrace from Root after his 14th first-class hundred.
Root enjoyed a stroke of luck to reach his century with a miscued cut that flashed past his stumps before he waved his bat triumphantly.
Pope’s innings came to an end when, in the first ball after changing his damaged pads, he mistimed a pull off Boult and was caught by the diving Matt Henry.
While the purists might have questioned the approach in a Test setting, Stokes opted for brute force as he embraced McCullum’s desire for England to play with aggression at all times.
He crunched Kyle Jamieson for a six amid a flurry of boundaries before the New Zealand bowler limped off with an apparent injury to match his bruised ego.
New Zealand said Jamieson was “off the field after experiencing sharp pain in his lower left back. He is currently being assessed by medical staff”.
Stokes’ 33-ball cameo finished on 46 when he slogged once too often off Bracewell and Boult held the catch.
Ben Foakes successfully overturned a caught behind decision after the review showed he hadn’t touched Henry’s delivery.
Foakes, who enjoyed another moment of good fortune as Will Young spilled a catch off Southee, went on to finish 24 not out.
It was the peerless Root’s day and he reached 150 for the 13th time in Tests with a gorgeous flick to the boundary.
On Saturday, Daryl Mitchell hit a sublime 190 to help New Zealand amass a huge total before England started to fight back.
Taking advantage of a docile pitch and lacklustre England bowling, Mitchell pummelled his way to his highest Test score.
Tom Blundell joined the run spree with 106 in a 236-run fifth wicket partnership with Mitchell.
New Zealand Test debutant Michael Bracewell scoring a brisk 49 as New Zealand took control in their bid to level the three-Test series after losing the opener at Lord’s by five wickets.
After quickly losing Zak Crawley in their reply, England recovered impressively as Ollie Pope (51 not out) and Alex Lees (34 not out) led them to 90-1 at the close.
It was Mitchell’s day as the journeyman with little Test pedigree, until this series, continued to seize his chance.
Six years ago, Mitchell had a season playing for Blackpool in the Northern Premier League and scored just two centuries.
The 31-year-old batsman arrived in England with just one Test hundred to his name since his 2019 debut, but now he has three following his 108 at Lord’s.
Mitchell’s latest century came in 318 balls, including 23 fours and four sixes, with England dropping him for the second time in the match just after he reached his ton.
“It was very rewarding to get the individual achievement but also to help the boys out,” Mitchell said.
NEW ZEALAND (1st Innings):
T. Latham c Potts b Anderson 26
W. Young c Crawley b Stokes 47
D. Conway c Foakes b Anderson 46
H. Nicholls c Foakes b Stokes 30
D. Mitchell c Foakes b Potts 190
T. Blundell c Stokes b Leach 106
M. Bracewell c Root b Anderson 49
K. Jamieson c Foakes b Broad 14
T. Southee c Root b Broad 4
M. Henry c Crawley b Leach 0
T. Boult not out 16
EXTRAS (B-1, LB-16, NB-8) 25
TOTAL (all out, 145.3 overs) 553
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-84 (Young), 2-84 (Latham), 3-161 (Nicholls), 4-169 (Conway), 5-405 (Blundell), 6-496 (Bracewell), 7-513 (Jamieson), 8-517 (Southee), 9-520 (Henry), 10-553 (Mitchell)
BOWLING: Anderson 27-9-62-3; Broad 26-4-107-2 (2nb); Potts 30.3-6-126-1; Stokes 23-2-85-2 (6nb); Leach 35-6-140-2; Root 4-0-16-0
ENGLAND (1st Innings, overnight 90-1):
A. Lees c Mitchell b Henry 67
Z. Crawley c Blundell b Boult 4
O. Pope c Henry b Boult 145
J. Root not out 163
J. Bairstow c Blundell b Boult 8
B. Stokes c Boult b Bracewell 46
B. Foakes not out 24
EXTRAS (B-12, LB-3, W-1) 16
TOTAL (for five wickets, 114 overs) 473
STILL TO BAT: Matthew Potts, Jack Leach, Stuart Broad, James Anderson
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-6 (Crawley), 2-147 (Lees), 3-334 (Pope), 4-344 (Bairstow), 5-405 (Stokes)
BOWLING: Southee 28-1-119-0 (1w); Boult 26.3-5-89-3; Henry 27-5-128-1; Jamieson 16.3-3-66-0; Bracewell 14-2-48-1; Mitchell 2-0-8-0
Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2022