Lunch England 435 for 8 dec and 168 for 5 (Root 74*, Stokes 20*) need 90 more to hit New Zealand 209 and 483
Root, having finished 153 not out in England’s first innings, continued to thwart the New Zealand attack, bringing down a run ball fifty and going to halftime on 74 with the same number of balls. Stokes was much more cautious in his approach and twice got away with edges going over the cordon for four, but stayed the course as England looked to seal their seventh successful fourth-innings chase since Brendon McCullum took over as manager on the year past.
Root’s proactivity was characterized by playing with offspinner, Michael Bracewell. He hit three fours and two sixes for 32 runs from 12 balls tackled, cutting England’s target below triple figures a few minutes before lunch.
With Bracewell under pressure, the home side’s cause was further damaged when Matt Henry was forced off the field with a sore back, leaving captain Tim Southee to operate as part of a three-man attack.
New Zealand needed to start well if they were to stop Bazball’s steamroller and the first hour could hardly have gone better for them. England lost 4-27, including the elimination of first-round centurion Harry Brook without facing a ball, as the scoreboard began to shake – but not for the expected reason.
Ollie Robinson, the night watchman, was dismissed on the third morning shift with his first rage shot, an upside-down slam down the line ending in the slip hands. With Ollie Pope twice beaten in his first three Southee balls, England looked to Ben Duckett to secure, but he managed to add a single boundary and ten runs to the night’s total before trying to cut Henry and pass to the wicket. .
A period of silence followed, with Pope and Root struggling to recover, before New Zealand hit twice as many balls to send a wave of panic to the tourists. Pope had taken his first commanding drive, pulling Neil Wagner to four when he opted for a back-cut and headed straight for second slip, Tom Latham holding off a good chance.
England were 80 for 4 and it became 80 for 5 just a minute or two later when Root called without realizing that his back foot strike had not gone through the cordon, Bracewell diving from third slip to shoot a pitch to Tom Blundell which left Brook quite short, and continuing his run straight to the dressing room.
The danger was very clear for England, but Root took it upon himself to put the situation right. He was busy from the start, getting his first ball off the pads for two, although he needed a bit of luck pulling Wagner away from the slips to open his limit account.
The introduction of Bracewell brought a change in momentum as Root tried to take down the spinner. His first ball went over the top of the keeper’s sweep, and his second went over the middle of the wicket after advancing down the field, before a key four followed on the back square leg, the first bringing England 100.
Stokes was cautious, in stark contrast to his recent approach with the bat, and waited 12 balls to hit the target. He was worried about the extra bounce found by Henry, but with Blundell keeping close to the stumps, a fine tip deflected up and away from the keeper’s gloves for four. When Stokes opted to attack a few overs later, a flash drive just cleared Bracewell’s hand at third slip.
Stokes also appeared to be preoccupied with his long-standing left knee problem, grimacing in pain after connecting with a hard shot from Bracewell, but he signaled his appetite for the fight by crunching his third four later in the same over.
Alan Gardner is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick