Ollie Pope and Joe Root reach centuries as runs continue to flow at Trent Bridge

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Ollie Pope and Joe Root helped themselves to a pair of outstanding centuries as England followed New Zealand’s lead by filling their boots in the second LV= Insurance Test at Trent Bridge.

Having watched the tourists rack up 553 in the first innings, England reached responded in kind by racing to 331 for two on the third afternoon in Nottingham.

From his new position of number three Pope reached a career-best 142 not out, his second Test ton and a first on home soil, while Root continued his magical run of form with yet another memorable turn, easing to an unbeaten 109.

Joe Root celebrates reaching another century
Joe Root celebrates reaching another century (Mike Egerton/PA)

His 116-ball masterclass was the fastest yet of his 27 Test centuries, his second in as many games since giving up the captaincy and his 10th since the start of 2020. It is the kind of purple patch only the very greatest players can even contemplate, taking Root into rarefied air.

With a rapid outfield, clear skies overhead and a Dukes ball that has been more docile than usual, the scene was set for England to enjoy themselves but they still deserve credit for not allowing the scoreboard pressure generated by the Kiwis’ mammoth total.

In the first two sessions they piled into a listless attack, heaping on 241 runs for the loss of a solitary wicket. Even the man to go, opener Alex Lees, made a flowing 67 – his maiden half-century in international cricket.

The Black Caps’ lead of 222 still gives them reason for optimism, with a cluster of quick wickets enough to get them back in the hunt, but it would take a major shift in momentum to drag the hosts back.

England began on 90 for one, with Lees and Pope having recovered well from the early loss of Zak Crawley.

Batting coach Marcus Trescothick had prepared them for a day of “hard work and discipline”, but in reality things came much easier than he could have hoped.

Lees set the tone, pounding Tim Southee through cover point for four from the third ball of the morning as he continued his swift evolution from the pensive blocker who made his debut in the West Indies just a couple of months ago to a freer, more expansive performer.

He took the driving seat initially, allowing Pope to settle down after a couple of early nicks off Trent Boult died in front of the slip cordon. Lees was good value for his 50, getting there at his ninth attempt in England colours, and showed excellent judgement right up to the point that he chased a seaming delivery from Matt Henry and was caught behind.

Alex Lees scored his first Test fifty
Alex Lees scored his first Test fifty (Mike Egerton/PA)

Starting after lunch on 195 for two, England dominated the afternoon’s play. Pope had worked his way to 84 in the first session, then romped to a century with unexpected speed in just 10 balls. Four overthrows helped but there were also three confident boundaries before he wheeled his bat in joy – ending a wait of 33 innings since his maiden effort in Port Elizabeth.

Root, meanwhile, found everything comically comfortable. He collected 10 boundaries in his first 50 runs, only getting himself into trouble when he decided to slog sweep Southee as though he were a spinner. The top edge landed safe and he was soon back to his imperious best, threading the ball into gaps at will as Tom Latham tried and failed to plug the gaps.

Pope had his moments – including a creative uppercut for six off his tip-toes – but he ceded centre-stage to his experienced partner as Root timed his charge perfectly before tea.

He might not have chosen the shot that got him there, a chop off Daryl Mitchell’s medium pace that could easily have dragged down his stumps, but it capped the latest in his long list of classics.

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