Joe Root praises maturity of Ollie Pope after 21-year-old made Test-best 75 to offer England hopes of winning second Test with New Zealand and drawing series
- Joe Root made 226 as England gave themselves hope of winning second Test
- He put on 193 with Ollie Pope, who showed great maturity in sixth Test innings
- Root was full of praise for England’s accidental wicketkeeper Pope afterwards
- It was the first time Pope, drafted in for Jos Buttler, had batted at No 7
Joe Root was full of praise for Ollie Pope after England’s accidental wicketkeeper responded to his captain’s call for application by batting nearly four and a half hours on the fourth day at Seddon Park for a Test-best 75.
Asked to fill the No 7 role after Jos Buttler tweaked his back on the eve of the game, Pope batted like a veteran – not a 21-year-old playing only his sixth Test innings, and his first in his new position, having already kept wicket for 129 overs while New Zealand compiled 375.
Pope had not enjoyed an auspicious return to the Test team in Mount Maunganui after a 16-month absence, falling to a pair of loose strokes outside off stump for 29 and six. But he reined in his natural game during a stand of 193 with Root, England’s highest for the sixth wicket for nearly four years.
Ollie Pope, 21, batted like a veteran for his 75 during England’s second Test in New Zealand
Pope, in just his sixth Test innings and his first batting at No 7, made a positive impression
‘He played extremely well,’ said Root. ‘You look at the way Ollie plays for Surrey: he’s very free-flowing, scores quickly and likes to put pressure on bowlers. He realised it was a slow pitch, and showed a lot maturity.
‘He knew it was a crucial partnership and we needed to make sure we set the game up and built up to a position where we could dictate terms. I thought he read the situation really well, and I’m really pleased for him to make a good contribution.’
Their stand helped take England to a total of 476, their highest in the first innings of a Test since Alastair Cook’s unbeaten 244 lifted them to 491 at Melbourne two years ago.
The stand of 193 between Pope and Root took England to a total of 476 at Seddon Park
Meanwhile, Root explained why he celebrated reaching 150 by gesticulating with his thumbs, following an unusual promise from Jofra Archer.
‘Jofra said: ‘If you get 150, you can have my X-Box controller,’ said Root. ‘He thought it would be a nice thing to do. I just thought: ‘A free X-Box controller is nice.’ It must be a good one. I don’t really play X-Box much, but I’ll take it.’
Above all, Root sounded relieved after making 226, the second-highest score of his Test career and his third double-century, in a year when his white-ball form has often overshadowed his record against the red.
Root marks his double century in Hamilton as the England captain returned to top form
‘It’s been different challenges this year,’ he said. ‘It’s been unique in everything we’ve had to go through as a team across the formats. Mentally, to be able to finish the year strong has been nice.
‘I’ve felt like my game has been pretty much there. You just sometimes need a bit behind you, and a few extra runs. It’s the business we’re in, unfortunately: sometimes you can be playing as well as you want but you need the scores.’
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