Cook thrilled by Root's success
Joe Root’s stunning start to life as an international cricketer is set to provide England with a selection dilemma - and captain Alastair Cook would not have it any other way.
An inventive innings of 79 not out from Root put the seal on an impressive eight-wicket victory over New Zealand at Napier that levelled the three-match one-day international series.
The 22-year-old has now passed 30 in each of his first six ODI innings – a unique feat – to follow up his Test and Twenty20 bows at the back end of 2012.
With the Champions Trophy on home soil just months away, Cook is thrilled to see one of the younger members of his squad staking such a strong claim for regular action.
Yet it is clear competition for places will remain fierce, with Kevin Pietersen – arguably England’s most destructive batsman - having been rested for this rubber.
“It’s a good problem to have,” said Cook.
“Joe can only keep doing what he’s doing, scoring crucial runs. You always want these new guys pushing the seniors for places.”
Not for the first time, Root was able to surprise and delight his captain in equal measure today.
The youngster’s unbroken 121-run stand with Jonathan Trott, another half-centurion along with Cook, came at a healthy lick to ensure England knocked off a target of 270 with more than two overs to spare.
“He played shots I didn’t know he could play,” Cook added.
“He came in when we needed seven runs an over, and played very well.
“The way he has handled himself in international cricket so far has been very good. A lot of it is about temperament and he’s certainly shown the right attitude and been able to handle pressure.”
It was a player boasting more than 10 years of experience who did much to limit New Zealand to 269 all out.
Although Ross Taylor’s seventh ODI ton and a blistering 74 from Brendon McCullum aided the Black Caps, England retained the upper hand thanks largely to James Anderson, who returned 5-34.
The seamer became his country’s leading wicket-taker in the previous match at Seddon Park and led the attack superbly today.
“The first 12 overs were probably the best I can remember from our bowlers,” said Cook.
“Steven Finn and James Anderson really set that tone and we put them right on the back foot.
“Because we had that great start, we felt that whatever runs they got we'd be okay on a cracking batting pitch.
“McCullum got them up to a defendable total, but I thought if we kept wickets in hand we were very comfortable in chasing it.
“It was a really good performance the way we bounced back from the other day, because obviously the pressure was on us to deliver when you're 1-0 down in a three-match series. People stood up.”
Cook's opposite number McCullum easily identified where his team had gone wrong.
“We didn't have enough runs, and also weren't able to get any sustained period of pressure (with the ball) to bring wickets," he said.
“There were a few areas where we were short. But I thought England's new-ball bowling, end-of-innings bowling and also their batting were outstanding today.”
The consolation for the Kiwis was Taylor's first substantial innings since returning to the fold after losing the captaincy and falling out with coach Mike Hesson.
“I'm really pleased for Ross that he got a score, and it's disappointing we weren't able to get a win for him,” added McCullum.
“I thought he played really smart right the way through, and it's great to see him back in form.”
As for Root, McCullum could hardly help but be impressed.
“He's busy, almost Australian-like with his presence at the crease,” he said.
Cook agreed, adding “He is very busy and hard to bowl at because he's always trying to get off strike. You've got to take that as a compliment.”