First hour is vital - Root
Joe Root pinpointed tomorrow's first hour as key after England suffered a late batting collapse to partially spoil a day of dominance in the first Investec Test at Lord’s.
Up until the closing overs of day three, everything went right for Alastair Cook’s side.
They first limited New Zealand, 153 for four overnight, to 207 all out on the back of James Anderson’s 13th five-wicket haul and then surged to 159 for two in their second innings for a lead of 184.
Root, with an assured 71 that further enhanced his burgeoning reputation, was central to England’s batting effort as he shared 123 with fellow half-centurion Jonathan Trott.
However, the 22-year-old then became the first of three wickets for Tim Southee and Kane Williamson’s subsequent dismissal of Trott ensured England were 180 for six by the time stumps were drawn.
Much now depends on how many runs England, for whom Ian Bell came in at number eight having suffered with the flu, can add to their current buffer of 205.
"We’ve got a massive first hour. It will be crucial, to try to get a really good lead and kick on from there," Root acknowledged.
"We played exceptionally well for the majority of today. I hope we can take that confidence into tomorrow.
"Obviously it's very disappointing to not finish quite as strongly as we'd have liked.
"But that's Test cricket, and we're going to have to play exceptionally well again in that first hour tomorrow and hope to build a partnership and get right back on top."
England’s first-innings 232 remains the highest score in the game for the time being and, despite prospering today, Root explained that batting remains a tricky business on a placid surface.
"It's quite slow, and obviously deteriorating as the game's going on. So the longer we can stay out there, the harder it will be for them batting last on it," the Yorkshire batsman added.
"But we’ve got a lot of batting to do first."
When the time comes for New Zealand to chase, Graeme Swann can be expected to play a prominent role given the sharp turn extracted by New Zealand’s part-time off-spinner Williamson late on the third evening.
"That's obviously encouraging, and I think Graeme will look at that and enjoy it,” said Root. “It might bring him into the game later on."
The late flurry of wickets provided a major boost to a New Zealand side that appeared to have lost its way.
With several players having spent time off the field – wicketkeeper BJ Watling and left-arm spinner Bruce Martin will have their respective knee and calf injuries assessed ahead of day four – there was a notable drop in intensity from the tourists.
Southee, the catalyst for New Zealand’s fightback, credited skipper Brendon McCullum and Williamson for turning things around.
"The guys ambled through the first half of that session and then Brendon pulled the guys in at drinks there and Kane gave us a few stern words." Southee explained.
"It did need something because it was meandering along and England were cruising a little bit.
"Everyone just lifted a little bit, then we got one wicket and were lucky enough to pick up a few. That turned it a little bit I guess."
Despite New Zealand’s evening resurgence, Southee – like Root – was keen to stress there was much work for his side still to do.
"We’ve got to turn up tomorrow and try and do a job that we started to do tonight," he concluded.
"We know (Stuart) Broad is capable with the bat and Swann is also dangerous so we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. But it is nice to know turning up tomorrow that we are into the bowlers."