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Root brilliance not enough to prevent series loss

— 3 December 2019

Joe Root’s superb double century was not enough to prevent a 1-0 series defeat in New Zealand, with a combination of a flat pitch, rain and a century from a former Yorkshire team-mate thwarting England’s bid for parity at Hamilton overnight.

While England were the more likely winners in the second and final Test, the hosts comfortably held on to leave Root and co contemplating defeat heading to South Africa later this month for a longer tour comprising of four Tests plus one-day and T20 internationals.

In this short series, England were undone by a failure to build on a promising start with the bat in the first innings of the first Test at Mount Maunganui – 277-4 to 353 all out.

And going beyond 400 in the first innings second time around at Seddon Park was not enough against an impressive New Zealand outfit led by the brilliant Kane Williamson, a White Rose favourite and scorer of 104 not out in the second innings.

He and fellow centurion Ross Taylor successfully overturned a deficit of 101 during today’s rain-affected fifth day.

England go from facing a buoyant New Zealand, who have won six successive home Test series, to facing a South African side encountering problems on and off the field.

They endured a chastening one-day World Cup in England over the summer and have most recently been beaten 3-0 in India.

  • Off the field, there are problems surfacing in the Cricket South Africa hierarchy, chiefly surrounding team selection.

    This is a more important tour given there are World Test Championship points up for grabs, which there weren’t in New Zealand.

    Captain Root said: ”We got ourselves in a position in that first game where we could have gone on and put them under huge amounts of pressure, made a big first-innings score just like we did this week.

    “It could have looked very different. But one thing I’m really proud of is the way we learned the lessons quickly from that.

    “I feel like we’re a more rounded team for being out here.

    “We are a side that wants to learn quite quickly and wants to become quite resilient in these conditions.

    “We want to become a much harder side to beat, first and foremost, and then go on and win games when it does get flat and hard.

    “Similarly, we want to go and make really big totals and put sides under pressure.

    “A lot of time with the ball, we have managed to create pressure in different ways, although we still want to be taking more chances.”

    As England replied to New Zealand’s first-innings 375 in Hamilton, opener Rory Burns continued his impressive form with 101, while Root hit 226 off 441 balls – his 17th time beyond 100 in Tests and his third double century.

    It was his longest Test innings and ended a near 10-month wait since his last century.

    “I have always felt like the runs were around the corner,” he said.

    “Once I got in, I had the bit between my teeth and wanted to make a big one to force a result in this game. I have never felt like it has been far away.”

    The first Test in South Africa starts on Boxing Day at Centurion, with two warm-up games from December 17.

    It means their squad for that tour will be announced imminently, with a potential return for Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow and Worcestershire all-rounder Moeen Ali.

    Bairstow is in South Africa already on a training camp with seamers Jimmy Anderson and Mark Wood, who are both in contention following injuries.

    Root added: “They (Anderson and Wood) are in South Africa now making sure they hit the ground running, getting ahead of the game and overs under their belts in those conditions.

    “That’s promising with selection not far away, and they will be pushing to make sure they are fit and ready if given the nod.

    “Jonny is out there with them, doing work with coaches to make sure he is match-hardened if selected.

    “We also know what Moeen has produced in Test cricket over his career. He is a fine, fine player, and I’m sure he will be back and raring to go at some point.”