Joe Root and Ollie Pope made centuries to help England move to 5-473 and within sight of New Zealand’s vast first-innings total of 553 on day three of a second Test that has turned into a batter’s paradise at Trent Bridge.
Root, currently the world’s most in-form batter in Test cricket, was still there at stumps on 163 not out to give England hope of coming out of the first innings with an unlikely lead.
While Root is used to compiling centuries — this was his fourth in his last five Test matches and the 27th of his career — Pope reached three figures for just the second time in four years in the England team and the first at home.
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Pope’s 145 beat his previous best score, the 135 not out against South Africa in January 2020, and justified the decision of England’s new leadership to promote him to No.3 for this international summer.
Alex Lees (67) and Ben Stokes (46) chipped in with significant knocks and Ben Foakes was with Root on 24 not out at the close, with England trailing by 80.
England leads the three-match series 1-0 after a five-wicket win in the first test at Lord’s last week.
Backing that up with a win in Nottingham looked beyond the hosts when Daryl Mitchell’s 190 led the New Zealanders to their biggest test score in England, but all results are now possible with two days remaining.
England motored along at a fierce rate, scoring 383 in 88 overs, with Root making his quickest century so far—in 116 balls.
A sixth double hundred looks on for Root after the latest impeccable knock from a player in the form of his life. It was his second century in as many Tests since giving up the captaincy, his fifth in his last nine innings on home soil, and his 10th since the start of 2021.
He now sits level with contemporaries Steve Smith and Virat Kohli on 27 centuries and there is a growing feeling that he could be the one to leave the pack behind.
“We’re witnessing something special,” former England captain Michael Vaughan told the BBC. “I’ve known Joe for years and I really do believe he’s England’s greatest player.”
England had started the day on 1-90, and Lees set the tone from the third ball of the morning, pounding Tim Southee (0-119) through cover point for four. The left-hander was good value for his first England fifty, opening up the off side well to draw the seamers back into his pads. Lees had also left the ball well but his judgment momentarily wavered when he wafted at Matt Henry’s wide delivery and was caught behind.
Pope started less assertively, twice nicking Trent Boult (3-89) in front of the slips in a morning session that saw him add a gentle 33 in two hours as Lees, then Root, took the driving seat.
Pope stepped things up a notch after lunch, taking just 10 balls to move from 84 to his long-awaited hundred. A set of four overthrows helped but there were also three boundaries clean off the middle of the bat as he found his timing.
Pope made his only other century 34 innings and two-and-a-half years ago in Port Elizabeth, and his ecstatic celebrations told their own story. Root sprinted 40 meters to join in.
England scored 136 in a wicketless afternoon session, Pope adding an uppercut six off Henry to a repertoire of flashy cross-bat strokes.
Improbably, the tempo picked up again after tea. Boult struck twice with the second new ball, Pope top-edging a pull to end a memorable stay and Jonny Bairstow caught behind off one that grabbed the glove.
England was still more than 200 adrift when Stokes stepped out, but he started in fifth gear and never retreated. He flayed 46 in 33 balls, with two sixes and six fours in a furious onslaught which was too fast for some observers. His exuberance proved his undoing, holing out off his third ball from spinner Michael Bracewell, who claimed his first Test wicket on debut.
Root moved serenely past the 150 mark, taking the deficit into double figures at the same time, with Ben Foakes supporting well after Will Young’s fumble reprieved him on nine.
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