Joe Root's 226 has given England some hope of levelling the series against New Zealand in Hamilton. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Joe Root had not scored a century for close to nine months heading into the Hamilton Test against New Zealand. The critics were building pressure on Root for his lack of consistency with the bat and even with his captaincy after the loss in the first Test at Mount Maunganui. However, on day 3, he responded with a back-to-the-wall century and on day 4, he capitalised on the knock to notch up his third double century in Tests. His 226 and his 193-run stand with wicketkeeper Ollie Pope gave England a lead of over 101 before Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor erased the deficit. Heading into the final day, England still have a chance but New Zealand will be determined to deny them a chance to level the series.
England lost Zak Crawley to Neil Wagner cheaply but Root found a superb partner in Pope, who showed immense determination to ensure England built a steady lead. On a pitch that was now starting to show uneven bounce on day 4, the bowlers still had to toil to break the stand as Root and Pope showed immense application. Both batsmen kept the likes of Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Daryl Mitchell at bay for close to 60 overs. New Zealand continued to struggle hard but run-scoring was not easy as they did not hit the boundary on a regular basis.
Root showed tremendous application with two boundaries off Mitchell Santner and when Pope cut Mitchell to the third man fence, England took the lead. After the lunch break, Ollie Pope notched up his maiden fifty and soon, Root notched up his double century when he tapped Matt Henry to cover for a quick single. His 200 consumed 410 balls, the most he has ever consumed in an innings in his playing career. The England skipper stepped on the gas by hammering Henry for a six and Pope showed his intent with a boundary off Mitchell and Wagner. However, the 193-run stand ended when Pope top-edged a short ball from Wagner to deep square leg where Jeet Raval took the catch.
England's hopes of establishing a lead of 150 took a big hit when Root mistimed a flighted delivery off Santner to be caught at deep cover. Sam Curran and Jofra Archer took the lead past 100 but Wagner struck thrice and ran through the tail as England ended with a lead of 101.
New Zealand started disastrously when Jeet Raval was trapped LBW by an incoming delivery from Sam Curran to end the match with a pair. Tom Latham, the first innings centurion, looked good with a couple of boundaries off Stuart Broad but Chris Woakes struck in his first over to remove Latham with a good length delivery angled across. However, Williamson and Ross Taylor, the two veterans of the team decided to dig in and hold fort until stumps. Williamson looked in good touch and struck boundaries while Taylor was struggling to get his timing going. However, Taylor broke the shackles when he slammed a short ball from Sam Curran to the deep midwicket fence for a boundary.
Towards the fag end of the day, both batsmen grew in confidence and kept the England bowlers at bay. When Taylor bashed a four off Ben Stokes, New Zealand had taken the lead and it all boils down to an intriguing final day.