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The Report by George Dobell
May 25, 2013
England 337 for 7 (Prior 37*, Swann 21*, Boult 3-48) v New Zealand
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Mark Nicholas : In Root, England have something special to savour
Features : McCullum's management keeps NZ hopes alive
Features : Root stands tall for county and country
Matches: England v New Zealand at Leeds
Series/Tournaments: New Zealand tour of England
It was, in the end, the scenario most of the locals wanted: two young, born and bred Yorkshiremen, digging England out of a hole with batting of class and substance. This was a golden afternoon for Yorkshire cricket.
Joe Root led the way. The 22-year-old, batting with a maturity that put his much-vaunted top-order colleagues to shame, registered his first Test century to steer his side away from the rocks and into far calmer waters.
While his colleagues paid the price for pushing and prodding away from their bodies, Root was compact, disciplined, patient and composed. He looked every inch the finished article as a Test batsman and generally played as late and as straight as any of his illustrious Yorkshire and England forefathers. Indeed, by becoming the first Yorkshire player to register his maiden Test century on this ground, he achieved something none of them had. He was also the first Yorkshire player to score a Test century at Headingley since Michael Vaughan in 2007.
With his county team-mate Jonny Bairstow, Root added 124 for the fifth wicket in increasingly confident style just as it appeared that New Zealand had seized the initiative. Until the pair came together, the second day of this match - the first had been lost to rain - had been characterised by soft dismissals as New Zealand's admirable bowlers again made good use of helpful conditions. Indeed, when England went into lunch 67 for 3 it raised questions about the wisdom of Alastair Cook choosing to bat first after winning the toss. New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum admitted he would have bowled first anyway.
But there was more than a degree of self-harm in England's early wickets. While Nick Compton, caught at third slip in the fourth over of the day, might consider himself the victim of fine bowling - the impressive Tim Southee drew Compton into driving a delivery he could have left by going wide on the crease and angling the ball in only to nip it away - Jonathan Trott had less excuse.
Having seen off the new ball, Trott was beginning to bat with some fluency when, on the brink of lunch, he attempted an uncharacteristically loose drive well outside off stump and edged behind. Cook followed to the next delivery, prodding at one he could have left and edging another catch to third slip.
By the time Ian Bell prodded lamely at an innocuous delivery well outside off stump from the part-time offspin of Kane Williamson, New Zealand were well on top. Bell's torturous innings had included being given out leg before to Southee on 12 - the decision was over-turned on review - and, on the same score, surviving an edge to the keeper off Trent Boult that the bowler, the umpire and most of the New Zealand fielders seemed not to notice.
Certainly, England were grateful for the Yorkshire influence. Root, particularly fluent off the back foot at the start of his innings, drove and cut nicely, put away the poor ball adeptly and ran like a whippet between the wickets.
But, as with any successful Test batsman, it was the shots Root did not play that were as important as those he did. While his more celebrated colleagues paid the price for pushing outside off stump, Root remained compact, refused to be drawn into anything away from his body and played the ball right below his eyes.
But it would be wrong to characterise Root as dour and defensive. In partnership with Bairstow, he plundered 19 from one over from Willamson, hitting three boundaries in succession as he showed a willingness to skip down the pitch and drive, to sweep and then to reverse sweep. His century, from 164 balls, came with his ninth four - a dab to third man - and made him the 11th youngest England player to score a Test century.
He survived a couple of anxious moments. Brendon McCullum was convinced he had caught Root down the legside off Doug Bracewell when he had 93 and utilised New Zealand's last review to check, and the umpire called for a replay when Neil Wagner got a hand on a Bairstow drive and thought - incorrectly as it transpired - that he may have run out Root as he backed up.
Bairstow took some time to settle but, once he had, lost little by comparison. Powerful on the pull and the cut, Bairstow was also strong off his legs and brought up his own half-century and the century stand with a sumptuous on-driven four that brought back memories of the stroke with which Geoff Boycott reached his 100th first-class hundred.
The value of their stand was thrown into even sharper relief by events that followed it. Once Root fell to a loose waft outside off stump, more a victim of a loss of concentration than the first delivery with the new ball, England lost three wickets for 16 runs. Bairstow, attempting to leave one outside off stump, was also caught behind before Stuart Broad, rooted to the crease, poked at a full ball and gave an inside-edge to McCullum.
Had Matt Prior, on 21, been caught at midwicket by Bracewell off Neil Wagner, New Zealand may have been able to finish off the innings. As it was, however, Prior and Graeme Swann were able to extend the eighth-wicket stand beyond 50 and ensure Root's hard work was not squandered.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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After the tragedy of Phillip Hughes' death, this match showed that cricket and life will continue to go on. This time Test cricket dug in and got through to tea.
The new stand-in captain has the makings of a long-term leader, given his ability to stay ahead of the game
Turning your back on a system that the whole cricketing world wants a discussion on, refusing to discuss it because it is not 100%, is not good enough
After a long time we have seen an Indian team and captain enjoy the challenge of trying to overcome stronger opposition in an overseas Test