In-form Root shows the way
Skipper Joe Root continued to warm up for the first Investec Test in fine style, following up his bowlers’ good work as England Lions took control against the New Zealanders on day two at Grace Road.
Root will likely retain his place in England’s five-day side for next week’s opening clash of three with the Black Caps, especially having struck 467 runs at an average of 155 in two LV= County Championship matches for Yorkshire this season.
The 22-year-old showed the tourists’ expected Test attack what he could do on a chilly day in Leicester, putting on 182 alongside the equally assured Michael Carberry after the second-string’s bowlers shone in the morning.
Having been dropped at slip by Brendon McCullum on 23, Root took full advantage to reach 105 not out while Carberry showed similar poise in compiling 77. The duo helped their side to 219 for two at stumps.
Earlier, the hosts showed resolve to dismiss New Zealand for 285 when a much bigger score appeared on the cards at the beginning of the day.
The Lions spent much of yesterday, having opted to bowl, watching Hamish Rutherford hit boundaries at will in an unbeaten 116 – an effort only interrupted by rain that ended proceedings with the Kiwis 184 for three after 44 overs.
It was a smart piece of work from Chris Woakes this morning that eventually accounted for the opener, who was dropped on 85 by Carberry yesterday. Rutherford pushed to mid-off, set off for a single and was short of his ground when the Warwickshire man produced a direct hit.
Having finally seen the back of their nemesis, all of the bowlers seemed more at ease and began to gain assistance from a green surface.
Graham Onions produced the perfect delivery to Black Caps skipper McCullum on one, gaining lift and nip outside off stump; Carberry was sure-handed this time at gully.
Onions remains very much in contention for next week’s encounter at Lord’s and such a scalp will have done his selection chances little harm, particularly with England team director Andy Flower in attendance along with the rest of the selectors.
The Durham man has perhaps been the outstanding bowler on show thus far, although Woakes was similarly impressive this morning.
He got a deserved reward for his efforts when BJ Watling, having looked good en route to 23, inside-edged an attempted back-foot punch and saw middle stump uprooted.
Ravi Bopara dropped a caught-and-bowled chance off Tim Southee, who hooked the fourth ball he faced for six, and Varun Chopra put one down at slip off the same bowler. Yet the medium-pacer got his revenge, trapping the big-hitting lower-order man in front for a brief-but-entertaining 11.
Picking up where they left off, the Lions quickly claimed the final three New Zealand wickets after lunch. Simon Kerrigan trapped Bruce Martin lbw before Toby Roland-Jones completed figures of 4-54 by having Doug Bracewell held at slip and castling Trent Boult.
New Zealand’s seamers looked similarly threatening as the Lions responded, Southee finding Chopra’s edge with a fine delivery that moved away and McCullum holding a good, low catch.
Yet Carberry, having overcome some difficult moments early on, was increasingly composed and Root likewise despite his reprieve and the odd ball misbehaving.
A right-hand, left-hand combination, the pair profited from contrasting styles that married to great effect for the second time in as many years.
Root and Carberry put on an unbroken 197 when representing the Lions against West Indies last year and clearly enjoyed batting together once more.
While the former looked confident from the off as a series of flicks and guides combined with good running, the latter’s effort was hallmarked by good defence being interspersed with attacking strokes to any wayward deliveries.
Having followed his partner to 50 with a crunching straight six off Martin, Root continued to prosper from a more positive approach either side of a second stoppage for bad light.
He lost long-time partner Carberry, who picked out square-leg slog-sweeping Martin, yet - with nightwatchman Chris Wright for company - proceeded to reach a 161-ball century by cutting Martin for four in what proved the day's last over as the gloom returned.