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‘Felt like I owed that to the group’ — Root on his Wellington ton

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Last updated on 25 Feb 2023 | 11:05 AM
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‘Felt like I owed that to the group’ — Root on his Wellington ton

Root put all doubts and fears to bed as he stormed back to his best sensationally, smashing an unbeaten 153

As Joe Root hit an ill-fated reverse-scoop straight to Daryl Mitchell in the slip cordon, in the first innings of the Mount Maunganui Test, there were fears that the Three Lions’ talisman had lost his identity in an attempt to fit into the ‘Bazball’ mould. 

Root had begun the Ben Stokes era in spectacular fashion, smashing three tons in four Tests, but a massive dip in form post the one-off Test against India saw him average just 22.00 across the following 11 innings, passing fifty just twice. One of those two fifties, in fact, came in the second innings at the Bay Oval, but still there were larger concerns surrounding the former skipper.

However, come the second Test in Wellington, Root put all doubts and fears to bed as he stormed back to his best sensationally, smashing an unbeaten 153. 

The Basin Reserve wicket was arguably the toughest pitch Root had batted-in in at least six months, but none of that mattered as the 32-year-old re-discovered the form that’d deserted him, passing three-figures for the 29th time in Test cricket to put his side in the driver’s seat.

Post the end of play on the second day, Root, who is now within touching distance of 11,000 Test runs, claimed that he felt like he ‘owed’ a team a big one after a ‘dry run’ by his high standards.

“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.”

Not only did Root excel on a green top, he did so while walking in at 21/2 which soon became 21/3. But he didn’t have to do the heavy lifting alone; he was aided by Harry Brook, who smashed a swashbuckling 186 off just 176 balls. Together, the pair remarkably added 302 runs and put the New Zealand bowlers to the sword.

It was Brook’s aggression that, in a way, enabled Root to settle down and play his natural game and the former skipper lauded the youngster for making his life easier.

“It's a joy to watch him play at the minute,” Root said of Brook.

“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.

"When he comes and plays as he does - if you slightly over-pitch he hits you over your head, if you miss short he goes midwicket, he'll back away and hit you through the off side - it's difficult to know where to bowl with him. When you get down the other end it just feels like there's less pressure on you, and more opportunity to get him back on strike and down the business end.

"I felt we had a really good understanding, we negated a few modes of dismissal by getting down the crease. We fed off each quite nicely and made it difficult for them to bowl one length for us."

Like they did in the first Test at the Bay Oval, England made an aggressive declaration, albeit one that was less funky, as they strode off the field post 87 overs with the score 435/8.

And for the second game running the declaration proved to be a masterstroke as the Three Lions were able to take three new ball wickets and eventually reduce the BlackCaps to 138/7 by stumps.

Root labeled the declaration a ‘brilliant call’ and was full of praise for Stokes for having the courage to make bold decisions time and again.

"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 didn't work out like that, it gave 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.

"He's just walked so naturally into the role, he's managing the game really well and everyone is responding to it. I just think was a brilliant call from him, it would have been very easy for us to keep going and we might not be sat here with them seven-down tonight. Credit to him, he's doing a great job."

Rain played spoilsport on both days, but England are still in pole position to win the contest and wrap up the series 2-0. Root stated that, as things stand, he is extremely satisfied with the position the team finds itself in.

".... 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."

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