Match Analysis

England's past, present and future combine in Harry 'n' Joe's Shawshank-and-sledgehammer stand

The contrasting styles led to a switch between looking at the past enduring into the present and the future happening right in front of it

Brook raced to 184* while Root worked his way to 101*  •  Getty Images

Brook raced to 184* while Root worked his way to 101*  •  Getty Images

It looked like Joe Root wouldn't make it. The rains had arrived to fill the Basin at around 4.50pm, the winds blowing across his eyeline as he lined up the leg side for the two runs needed for three figures. Three attempts were shut down by fielders in close. With a ball to go in the over, Root charged, meeting Neil Wagner on the full, eventually puncturing the on side.
The celebration came instantly, even though Root had to take a loop around Wagner to make it back for the second. Before he had even finished embracing the acclaim from the grass banks, the umpires were pulling the stumps out of the ground and beckoning the covers on. Off they all went, not to return for the day.
Alongside him was Harry Brook with 184* of his own from 169 deliveries - 13 fewer than what Root faced for century number 29. A double-hundred (plus tax) that was on the cards for Brook before the end of play was over. That he didn't get there was probably no bad thing. A fourth hundred in six innings, the first player to pass 800 runs in his first nine innings outright, a new career-best - you can have too many accomplishments, you know. Then again, he didn't celebrate much at all today, a cursory removal of the helmet and raising of the arms after he late cut Daryl Mitchell in the middle session. "He [Root] was actually more excited for me than I was getting a hundred," Brook, like a child embarrassed by a parent, said afterwards.
Ultimately, it was the differences between two of Yorkshire's favourite sons that allowed England to emerge from the morning's assault by New Zealand's quicks to surge into a remarkable position.
The only thing in common before they set about their currently unbeaten stand of 294 was the score of 21 when they arrived at the crease. Root had faced just one delivery by the time Brook arrived at the fall of the third wicket. The common goal was to rebuild, but they had very different ideas of how to go about this escape. Root opted for the Shawshank approach, spooning through the walls while Brook went straight for the sledgehammer. When Root brought up 100 balls, he had scored just 36 with the sole boundary. Brook, at the same stage of his innings, had 96 by virtue of 15 boundaries - two of which were monster sixes down the ground off Mitchell.
It was the treatment of Mitchell that was perhaps an example of how they tag-teamed the recovery. Root only scored 12 off 23 from Mitchell, who was brought on as the first-change bowler, opting to tee his partner up to land the more telling blows. Brook delivered, in style: three fours and four sixes contained within 31 deliveries reaping 49.
Scoring areas were varied: Root primarily leg side, particularly through square leg and midwicket; Brook pretty much everywhere, but largely down the ground and through extra cover, with 101 coming in those regions. The most bombastic of those were when stepping away and slap-shooting Wagner back over his head. Such was the ease of execution from the 24-year-old Brook that Tim Southee ended up stationing Kane Williamson beyond Wagner's shoulder.
While the situation put in front of Root narrowed his focus, it was the work of Brook at the other end that enabled him, enough that he brought out his patented reverse scoop to move to 92, barely a week on from when it brought about his downfall in the previous Test
The duo adopted unique guards to mess with the bowling attack. The early success of Matt Henry and Southee came through a length that targeted the top of off stump and then let whatever green from that area of the pitch that wanted to come to the party do its thing. Rotating the strike was one way to ensure the bowlers could not get into a groove, but Root and Brook took it a step further.
"There was a period in the middle where he was batting near the five-foot line and I was batting right back on my stumps," Brook revealed at stumps. "And obviously as a bowler you can't really see that when you're running in so that was probably quite tricky for them to bowl at."
Much like seamers varying their positions on the crease, both batters made constant little shifts here and there to instil bits of doubt in the minds of an attack. An attack that was dangerously close to being run ragged before the weather intervened, leaving them with a lot of soul-searching to do before Saturday.
But beyond the technical aspects, there was a real soul to this Root-Brook stand. It was the cricketing equivalent of a Rorschach test: depending on which of them was on strike, you were either looking at the past enduring into the present or the future happening right in front of you.
Even Brook's words speak of an emotive stand that began in the seventh over and carries over into the weekend: "I've always enjoyed watching Rooty bat and probably enjoy batting with him more than I enjoy watching him." And to go back to the reaction to the centuries, there was a sense of roles being reversed.
Root needed his century more than Brook needed his. Earlier in the week, the former captain spoke honestly (perhaps too honestly) about his struggle to find his rhythm in this line-up. The compulsion to push the game into fast-forward was affecting previously immaculate decision-making. And while the situation put in front of Root narrowed his focus, it was the work of Brook at the other end that enabled him. He brought out his patented reverse scoop to move to 92, barely a week on from when it brought about his downfall in the first innings of the previous Test in Mount Maunganui.
Having reasoned the early strong form under Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes was due to him giving up the captaincy, Root's first century since July 2022 marks the beginning of a new chapter. That it was Brook at the other end, a player Root had previously failed to keep up with, was all the better and added to the fascination with this England team at the moment; particularly that one of these two is starting to fit in, and the one who really gets it has only just arrived.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo