Joe Root was at his most determined in a magnificent 226 which pushed England into the ascendancy on the fourth afternoon of the second Test against New Zealand at Hamilton.
After ending his lean patch by reaching three figures the previous evening, Root proved his appetite had not been sated as he registered his highest score as England captain in an innings that was his longest in terms of balls faced as well as minutes at the crease.
Root’s third double hundred – he made 254 against Pakistan at Old Trafford in July 2016 and 200 not out versus Sri Lanka at Lord’s two years prior to that – came moments after he had leapt above Wally Hammond and into the top 10 among England Test run-scorers.
A 193-run stand alongside Ollie Pope (75) lifted England into a comfortable position of 455 for five before the tourists lost their last five wickets in the space of 37 balls as they were all out for 476 – a lead of 101.
BANG, BANG, BANG! Just like that three quick wickets fall. Both Root (226) and Pope (75) caught in the deep, then Woakes caught behind 🏏
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) December 2, 2019
After such an abrupt ending to England’s innings, the Black Caps may feel better about securing a draw which would be enough to claim a 1-0 series win.
In their favour is a weather forecast predicting rain for large spells on day five as well as a slow pitch that, apart from some variable bounce, is offering the bare minimum to bowlers.
Root and Pope added 110 in an attritional morning session that has come to define this series and they were only parted – and dismissed within five balls of each other – in the afternoon after entering into one-day mode.
The surface and the fact they trailed by 106 with only five wickets in hand meant Root and Pope took very few risks under cloud cover on Monday evening.
Root was beaten by a Tim Southee scuttler that just whistled past off-stump although the England captain dispatched the seamer for four with a shorter delivery that did not get up as expected.
Pope drove loosely off Southee as the ball flew through the gate but missed the stumps while an inside edge off Daryl Mitchell brought the 21-year-old his first four.
While the New Zealand attack were willing, the field was spread out in an effort to stymie the boundaries but Root and Pope were able to intersperse the odd four with some hard running in-between the wickets.
Root, by this stage past 150, was more proactive against Mitch Santner and swept the slow left armer for four to take the union between the England captain and Pope into three figures, while the junior partner’s cut off Daryl Mitchell gave England a slender lead at lunch.
YEEEEESSS @root66!! 2️⃣0️⃣0️⃣
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) December 2, 2019
Pope reached his maiden Test half-century soon after the resumption while a four off Mitchell which bisected the fielders at point and short third man took him above Hammond in England’s all-time Test run-scorers.
A push into the offside and a hurried single ushered Root to the third double ton of his Test career – but only after Henry Nicholls had missed a shy at the stumps which would have run out Pope, scrambling to the striker’s end.
Root and Pope were in one-day mode by the time New Zealand had their first breakthrough of the day, as the latter holed out at deep-square leg for 75 off a Wagner bumper to end a 193-run stand in 62.3 overs.
Root’s 10-and-a-half-hour stay at the crease was ended when he advanced down the track and sliced Santner to deep cover.
Wagner angled one across Chris Woakes to have him caught behind before Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad were bowled, the left-arm enforcer finishing with five for 124.