Joe Root led England’s charge on day two of the second Test against New Zealand in Wellington, scoring an unbeaten 153 to help his team declare at 435 for 8. The English captain’s innings, which was his 29th Test century, now puts his average back above 50. It allowed England to have two attempts at the New Zealand batting order before and after lunch, which saw the hosts reduced to 138 for 7 before the rain washed out the remaining two hours of play.
Root’s innings was his fourth century under Ben Stokes’ and Brendon McCullum’s tenure, but it came after he had admitted to struggling to find a balance between contributing and doing so in a manner that aligns with the new attacking approach of this side. However, he managed to hit his stride on this occasion, scoring his last 103 runs off just 102 balls, showing his attacking intent. He credited Harry Brook for bringing out the best in him, as the pair added 302 for the fourth wicket.
“I felt like I owed that to the group,” Root said. “It’s been a while since I made a solid contribution. To be part of such a big partnership was really pleasing, and I think the best thing was I had the best seat in the house to watch Harry go about his business. It’s a joy to watch him play at the minute. He certainly made my life a lot easier out there, the way he manages to wrestle momentum in our favour and constantly put bowlers under pressure.”
Root also praised Stokes for the timing of the declaration, allowing James Anderson to remove Devon Conway and Kane Williamson before lunch, before the rest of the top five were dismissed with just 77 on the board. Without the weather intervening, there was a strong chance of all 10 wickets before the scheduled close of play.
“I think it was a brilliant call from Ben,” Root said. “It felt like that 40 minutes before the break, the sun was out and with 40 minutes of sun, a heavy roller and 40 minutes of sun at lunch, it might have changed the wicket. It gave us a better opportunity to make the most of conditions. The way we’re playing at the minute with the confidence we’ve got, seeing the ball move around with the No. 1 Test bowler, the two leading wicket-takers we’ve ever had, it just seemed a very brave and attacking option. Full credit to Ben, as you’d expect, for taking it on.”
Looking ahead, Root is eyeing a potential follow-on, given the likelihood of more rain interruptions and the relatively light workload of England’s bowlers so far. However, he is cautious and understands that the result will ultimately decide whether this century ranks as one of his best since the start of last summer.
“Potentially,” he answered when asked whether this one was top of the four, the others having come in the opening matches of last summer, including two successful run-chases at Lord’s and Edgbaston. “We’ll see how the game turns out. You always judge how well you’ve played off the back of a result, and I’m certainly sat here in this position, at the end of day two, having them seven-down with a huge lead is very satisfying right now. Hopefully we can follow through on it and continue all the good cricket we’ve played up to now.”
Root’s innings has put England in a commanding position in the match, and with more rain forecasted for the coming days, it remains to be seen whether the visitors can capitalize on their advantage and secure a win to level the two-match series.