Joe didn’t look like a captain under pressure. Mr. Burns looked like the boss he needed to be out in the middle.
Usually, when you hold all the cards, the win is in your favor. But for Joe Root, the under-fire English skipper, he also holds the cards for it all to go wrong.
As Kane tried to twist the valve early on Sunday, he placed an attacking field with little opportunity for runs on the favored side, and that was smart considering the pressure England were under to start the day. But time and time again, England’s skipper Joe managed to respond in kind while Mr. Burns took the attack to New Zealand’s short bowling.
It was a productive morning that kept the scorers busy, and likely had many asking themselves if the English had actually done themselves something of a favor by letting their opposition bat for the best part of two days because, now, the pitch was prime for a long and rewarding dig.
And dig in the English did, exploiting the New Zealand field by scoring a lot of their singles in areas where the attacking fielders weren’t. The boundaries that were hit often didn’t trouble the fieldsman, timed to perfection and primely placed.
It was sheer quality, of the highest order by the English batsmen.
The discussion, perhaps concern, being had amongst New Zealand journos over the tables at lunch was that at 142/2, not a lot was happening for captain Kane out in the middle. For all the great of spinning Santner, he’s best used as an attacking bowler not a defensive one and this had showed how England’s 150-run and counting stand had flipped the script for the first time since Friday.
Santner, in all fairness to him, had little effect with the ball.
Mr. Burns more than followed through on Stuart Broad’s promise that he’d be the very man that was key to England’s day three fortunes. A second Test century that featured 15 glorious and aggressive boundaries had put England a decent way toward putting a dent in New Zealand’s 375.
By tea time, England were over halfway towards the deficit and looking good.
With a hint of rain in a few ominous clouds above, there were still long lines for ice cream (which I’m told Cookies n’ Cream was a hit) and fans were having a glorious time up on the embankments which were by far the most popular spot to view the action.
Joe’s captaincy has been all but put on the chopping board in the English press, something many of their touring fans welcomed. He needed to respond and he did. Patient, composed and analytical are just a few of the words that sprung to mind when watching the 28-year old go about his business after having to navigate a tricky period before the prior days end.
Sure, the pitch was as dead as the Titanic sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, but take nothing away from what Root did out there today. Certain top-tier batsman tend to have a “zone” they go into during the best of digs at the crease, and it was noticeable as Root went on, often holding the pose after finding the middle of the bat (even on defensive blocks) and angrily strutting around the batting area after a mistake.
At 4.55pm, Root notched his 17th Test match century.
Two late scalps see the game interestingly poised, but with a slender lead of 106 as the rain came down to end Sunday, perhaps New Zealand have done enough to have things in their favor on Monday.
Root is still out there, though. For better or worse, he could just be the key man in all of this.
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