Joe Root notched up his first double century as England captain, following Ollie Pope's maiden Test fifty, as England finally put up a show, on the penultimate day of the series-deciding second Test in Hamilton. After securing a 101-run lead, despite Neil Wagner's five-wicket haul, England struck early twice to send back both New Zealand openers. Online Betting Tips However, their best efforts might not be enough for a series-levelling win, with not just Kane Williamson-Ross Taylor unbroken partnership but also the weather likely to play party pooper on the final day.
England resumed their bid for series parity from the overnight score of 269 for 5 with their first objective to wipe out the remainder of the 106-run deficit. However, with skipper Root well set after his first hundred in nine months, Pope looking solid at the other end, and a track still very good for batting, that proved rather easy. The 193-run partnership for the sixth wicket between the overnight pair set England the base for a healthy 101-run lead and saw them tick off many milestones in a very disciplined show of Test match batting.
New Zealand, much like yesterday, spent the first session and a half chasing leather but without any success. This is not to suggest that the hosts were wayward with their bowling, but such had been the nature of the strip and the resolve of Root that they didn't get a lot to cheer about until England decided to have some reckless fun.
England wiped out the deficit and then picked up a four-run lead by the end of the extended two-and-a-half hour opening session that was played out under a thick cloud cover. In fact, it didn't play out very differently from yesterday, except Root had a younger partner in Pope for company this time and more responsibility on his shoulders. And he responded beautifully, doing the bulk of the scoring while Pope played second fiddle. The pair took their time, adding just 42 runs in first 75 minutes of play during which Root reached his 150 with a nudge to midwicket off Mitchell Santner in his first over of the day. Pope stayed the dormant partner in the early stages of their association, contributing only 39 of the first hundred, which came up when Root swept Santner in front of square. They headed to Lunch with an unbeaten 117-run stand behind them and with their eye on a double century and maiden fifty, respectively.
Pope reached his fifty off 165 deliveries in the fourth over after the break. But it wasn't until his captain's milestone that the duo decided to switch gears. Unlike the other two centurions in this game, Root converted his hundred into a double - his third in Test cricket and first as England captain - as he risked a streaky single with a potential to run Pope out. An over later, he walked down the track and smacked one straight over mid-off for his first six, off Matt Henry - a shot that all but signalled the change of intent from the English camp.
And this period proved significantly rewarding for New Zealand, especially Wagner who cleaned up the tail as he snaffled four of the five remaining wickets to complete his second fifer of the series and ninth overall in Tests. Pope took the cue little too seriously and sacrificed what could have been his maiden Test hundred for the team's cause when he went after a short-pitched delivery and ended up top-edging it to Jeet Raval at deep square leg on 75, just after England went past the 450-run mark. Three balls later, Root decided to up the ante and danced down the track to take on Santner, only to hole out straight to a waiting-in-position deep cover that brought curtains on his magnificent and yet longest Test innings on 226. England's lead stood at 83 when their captain walked off to standing ovation from the sparse Monday crowd.
New Zealand, and Wagner, persisted with attacking tactics in their bid to speed up the declaration and were rewarded soon enough. Wagner tempted Woakes into an expansive drive with a length ball outside off, and the English all-rounder went chasing, offering a regulation catch to the 'keeper even before he could open his account. Jofra Archer decided to join the fun early and smoked Wagner over the long-on stand. However, Wagner sought his revenge right at the next delivery with a slower knuckle ball. Archer failed to read it but swung hard at it, and tad too early, to drag an inside edge onto his stumps. Match-Session Odds Two balls later, Wagner dished out another knuckleball for Stuart Broad who also lost his off-stump, giving the bowler his second fifer in as many Tests.
England lost their last five wickets for just 21 runs but a 101-run lead got them the proverbial edge heading into the second innings. The pressure increased tenfold on New Zealand when Jeet Raval, not in the best of forms of late, was trapped LBW by Sam Curran on the eighth ball of their second innings. The opener didn't even consider a review, while the repays spotted an inside edge that he, surprisingly, seemed to have missed himself as he walked off for a two-ball duck. Tom Latham though continued from where he left off in the first innings but Chris Woakes ensured there would be no encore, as he induced an edge off his bat straight to the safe hands of Root at the lone slip stationed.
Taylor and Williamson came together when New Zealand were under a fair bit of pressure, at 28 for 2, but the duo brought their experience to the fore to bail the home team out and nearly erase all deficit. Williamson did the bulk of scoring initially and Taylor picked up pace only after he pulled Curran for his first boundary of the day. The duo quietly chipped away at England's lead in an excellent final hour of play, putting on 68 runs for the unbeaten third wicket stand that left them trailing by only five more runs.