Joe Root’s magnificent 226 drove England’s push for a series-levelling victory on day four of the second Test against New Zealand but a draw at Hamilton now seems the likeliest outcome.
Despite ending his lean patch by reaching three figures the previous evening, Root showed his appetite had not been sated as he recorded his first overseas double hundred and highest score since becoming captain.
England’s 476 all out gave them a first-innings lead of 101 but the reliable pair of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor took the Black Caps to 96 for two as the deficit was all but wiped out.
While there was some variable bounce at Seddon Park, the benign nature of the pitch and the forecast for rain for much of Tuesday means a stalemate seems unavoidable, which would hand New Zealand a 1-0 series win.
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Root’s efforts pushed England into the ascendancy but a combination of the slow pitch and bad weather on day five is likely to mean a draw.
Root returned to form in spectacular fashion with the third double ton of his career and his first overseas, beating his previous highest score away from home of 182 against the West Indies in 2015. No other visiting captain had gone past 200 in New Zealand before Root, who now sits 10th in England’s all-time leading Test run-scoring list. The Yorkshireman leapfrogged Wally Hammond, who is one of only three Englishman to have more double tons than Root – Hammond has seven, with Alastair Cook on five and Len Hutton on four. The 441 balls he faced and 636 minutes Root spent at the crease here meant this was the longest innings of his career.
Root ready to collect Archer’s gift
Once Root had done the obligatory raise of his bat after reaching 150, he peculiarly tucked his bat under his arm and started making gestures with his hands. He later explained: “Jofra (Archer), for some reason, thought it would be a nice thing to do, he said ‘if you get 150, you can have my Xbox controller’. I just thought ‘a free Xbox controller is nice’. It must be (a good one). I don’t really play Xbox much but I’ll take it.”
Fans grow weary of Black Caps tactics
While New Zealand were busy stifling England in an attritional passage of play in the morning and early afternoon, some of those on the grass banks were growing restless and were imploring Kiwi captain Kane Williamson to bowl shorter lengths. Neil Wagner, who took five for 124, later said: “It wasn’t quite distracting. I can see where the spectators are coming from but in the sense of the game it wasn’t really a wicket where at the time it was easy to do it with two set batsmen who were playing it really well. You can also leak runs. At that point it’s summing up the conditions and summing up what’s in front of us.”
December 3: New Zealand v England, day five of the second Test at Hamilton, where the tourists must battle a formidable home batting line-up and the elements to level the series.