OLLIE POPE was rejuvenated as an England player and Joe Root continued his incredible run of great success.
Pope scored his second Test century – two and a half years after his first – and provided a glorious endorsement of captain Ben Stokes’ decision to make him England’s new No 3.
Root, meanwhile, reached his 27th Test hundred, his 10th since early 2021 and second in two games since quitting captaincy.
And nobody was the least bit surprised because Root is hitting like a god these days.
It added up to a flurry of runs on day three of the second Test as England amassed a remarkable 383 from 88 overs – a hurricane scoring rate of 4.35 per over.
Stokes and new manager Brendon McCullum promised positive cricket and it was a day of adrenaline pumping aggression.
Pope made 145 and in the end Root 163 was not out as England went 473-5.
But they are still 80 runs behind New Zealand’s first innings total of 553 overall.
Both sides will believe they can force victory even though the pitch has been a hitter for three days.
Things are starting to spin, which will interest Jack Leach.
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Other useful contributions came from opener Alex Lees, who hit his first fifty in his ninth Test innings, and Stokes, who brawled from 33 balls to 46.
Amazingly, it was Pope’s first century north of the Thames.
His previous 13 top-flight hundreds were scored at The Oval (nine), Guildford, Southampton, Dubai and Port Elizabeth in South Africa.
Over the past 18 months, Pope had become a frenetic, jerky figure at the crease, beset by the Indian Spinners and the Australian Quicks alike.
His once-pure technique has been corrupted by a head full of strange theories and a collapse in confidence.
It cried out for the Pope to return to the Orthodox.
Now, with Stokes insisting Pope is the country’s second best batting talent behind Root, he was back as the free-flowing stylist who looks so promising in his early test matches.
The captain’s faith in Pope was the reason he was recalled and seeded at number 3, a position he had never held even for Surrey.
Dropped at Slip on 37 on Saturday night, Pope notched a couple of hookshots that flew for six.
But his cover driving was exquisite, his clipping through the mid-wicket rock solid.
Pope reached his century from 160 balls and was finally out when he was caught on the fine leg – the ball, after breaking his pad’s top strap, dived for a quick single.
Jonny Bairstow was soon caught behind the glove but Stokes kept pushing the accelerator.
He scrambled across the field to the first ball of a Kyle Jamieson spell and dropped the ball in the crowd outside the gazebo.
Jamieson failed to finish the over and trotted away with a backache.
Stokes lifted spinner Michael Bracewell over the sight screen at the other end but then tried to score another big hit, holed deep in the middle of the goal.
On the 27th, Root clipped at Trent Boult, got edged and was dropped over his head by Tim Southee on the second slip.
A tough one, but still a chance.
He slog-swept Southee to 52 and the ball went into the side of the leg, but it fell safely between wicketkeeper Tom Blundell and Jamieson, who ran in from a fine leg.
But really, it was another wonderful and virtually flawless inning from Root on one of his most productive grounds.
His scorching form seems endless and he’s sure to be happy to see the captain’s pressure gone.
His century came via an inside edge of 116 deliveries – he hit his 118-ball hundredman in Cardiff 2015 as the fastest of his career against the Aussies.
Root went over 150 with a perfectly timed clip through the middle of the wicket and will aim to give England a first innings lead tomorrow.
Many in the crowd chanted a Newcastle United chant, chanting: “Take off your shoe if you love the root.”
And there they were, holding up an assortment of sneakers, flip flops and moccasins.
He has wicketkeeper Ben Foakes, who is not out at 24, for company.
Foakes on the nine was dropped by Will Young in front of Southee on the deep square leg – adding to the catalog of fielding errors in this match.
In the morning session, Lees hit his first fifty but then drove towards Matt Henry and Daryl Mitchell, who spilled two on Saturday, eventually held a hook.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/5546335/england-new-zealand-day-three-ollie-pope-joe-root/ Joe Root achieves his fastest-ever century alongside the rejuvenated Ollie Pope as England delight with at-bat at Trent Bridge