Tea England 331 for 2 (Pope 142*, Root 109*) trail New Zealand 553 (Mitchell 190, Blundell 106) by 222 runs
Pope vindicated the new England regime’s bold call to promote him to No. 3 with a wonderful knock which saw him unbeaten on 142 at the interval and England 331 for 2, still a deficit of 222 runs but with he and Root in fine touch.
Root brought up back-to-back centuries after his match-winning 115 not out in the first Test at Lord’s last week. This one was the fastest of his career, which now boasts 27 Test tons in all, coming off just 116 deliveries and he remained unbeaten on 109 at tea.
Pope, who had brought up his fifty the previous evening and went to lunch on the third day unbeaten on 84, kept cruising towards his second Test century after the break, whipping Trent Boult through midwicket for four and moving to 98 with a late back-cut off Matt Henry which bounced over gully’s head for another boundary.
He raised his ton with a push to deep cover off Henry’s next ball and a sprint, which was punctuated by a brief hesitation before he saw Root – head-down and steaming back for the second – and continued on his way, celebrating with clenched fists and a fired-up look on his face.
Before the first Test of this series, Pope had never batted above No. 4 in first-class cricket, his inexperience batting so high and single-figure scores of 7 and 10 at Lord’s fuelling doubts over the decision to promote him.
Pope answered those doubts with an assured knock which has so far included 13 fours, including a late cut off Henry through cover point which was followed by an upper-cut for six over third man off the next ball, his third of the innings.
Root, meanwhile, kept scoring at a rapid rate. Having reached 35 not out off just 43 balls by lunch, including seven fours, he brought up his fifty from just 56 deliveries with a flick off Henry to the rope through midwicket. By tea, Root had amassed 18 fours as he and Pope played with sublime positivity.
Lees produced some fluid drives off the front foot during the course of his innings and brought up his half-century with a four through square leg off Kyle Jamieson.
The nature of the shot left a pall of ‘opportunity lost’ over the innings for Lees, who came into the match with 171 Test runs, including a highest score of 31.
The tourists failed to take another chance when Root, on 27, top-edged an attempt to cut Trent Boult, the ball flying high and through Tim Southee’s outstretched hands at second slip.