Only days after saying he had something of an identity crisis in Ben Stokes’ England setup, former captain Joe Root can now rest easy after a brilliant, unbeaten century in the second Test against New Zealand.
Having shared in a 302-run stand with fellow Yorkshireman Harry Brook, Root went on with the job after the dynamic rookie was dismissed for 186 early on day 2 yesterday at the Basin Reserve in Wellington.
Root was 153 not out when Stokes declared England’s first innings closed at an imposing 435-8.
England have won 10 of their past 11 Tests since Stokes replaced Root as captain and are on target for another victory after New Zealand collapsed to be 138-7, with rain halting play early on day 2.
The hosts were still 297 behind with Tom Blundell (25 not out) and Tim Southee (23 not out) at the crease.
Root helped start England’s sparkling run under Stokes by scoring a mountain of runs against New Zealand and India in the home summer.
However, he feared he was not pulling his weight after a relatively lean run against South Africa and away to Pakistan.
“I’ve just got to find out what sits best for me and it’s going to take some time,” Root said after scoring 14 and 57 in the first Test win over New Zealand in Mount Maunganui. “If I’m being brutally honest, there was the initial relief of coming out of the captaincy and now I’m just trying to find out what my role is within this team.”
It was a surprising comment coming from one of England’s greatest batsmen after his 128th Test.
Yet, such are the standards of the 32-year-old Yorkshireman, invariably his own harshest critic.
England’s attacking “Bazball” revolution under Stokes and head coach Brendon “Baz” McCullum has been a game-changer for the team and the format.
Root might have wondered how he fit in the new paradigm.
While by no means a plodding batsman, he is unlikely to ever be described as “swashbuckling” like some of his harder-hitting teammates.
Such concerns might no longer bother him, though, after his majestic 224-ball knock featuring 10 fours and three sixes at the Basin Reserve.
“I might not have explained it exactly as I’d like to the other day,” he told reporters. “I kind of know I have a very good understanding of what my role is, but I felt like in that situation [today], I found a very good tempo to manage those conditions.”
Root was dismissed in the first Test with a botched reverse-ramp, a shot that seemed out of character.
Yet in Wellington he has used it to great effect, hitting a six off Southee early in the morning and then another four off the paceman-captain to push England past 400.
Root paid credit to the red-hot Brook for making his life easier by putting pressure on the bowlers with an incredible strike rate.
“He’s almost playing on a different planet,” Root said. “I felt like I had the best seat in the house yesterday.”
Additional reporting by AP
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