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  • England Lions v NZ, Tour Match, Grace Road, 2nd day

Root hundred strikes pre-Test blow for New Zealand

Andrew McGlashan at Grace Road
May 10, 2013
England Lions 219 for 2 (Root 105*, Carberry 77) trail New Zealanders 285 (Rutherford 126, Roland-Jones 4-54) by 66 runs
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Joe Root made a century off 161 balls © Getty Images
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New Zealand's preparations for the Test series had gone pretty much according to plan in the early days of the tour, but they were given a jolt on the second day at Grace Road as the Lions, perhaps motivated by the presence of most of the England management, took charge through a classy hundred by their captain Joe Root, following an improved bowling display.

There was a curious amount of tension surrounding Root's hundred, which came off 161 balls, not because he had looked anything but fluent for most of his stay but because of the threat of bad light that almost had him sleeping overnight in the 90s. However, moments before the day was ended Root cut Bruce Martin through point to bring up his third hundred of the season. He will want to bottle this form.

He had been given life on 23 when Brendon McCullum could not hold a high a chance at second slip off Doug Bracewell but it was another classy innings. McCullum spoke before the game of wanting to strike a blow against players set to appear in the Test, but it is Root who has taken an early psychological high.

A couple of his cover drives stood out and he went to fifty with a straight six off Martin having already passed 500 first-class runs for the season. When Kane Williamson was introduced, Root slog-swept him through midwicket three times and also tried a reverse sweep.

It was a difficult day for New Zealand. They lost their last seven wickets for 74 either side of lunch, a collapsed sparked by the run out of Hamish Rutherford for 126, and then they struggled to make inroads into the Lions top-order with what could yet be their Test bowling attack, although Neil Wagner would be particularly unlucky to be overlooked.

Four of New Zealand's key players did not play against Derbyshire so this is their only outing before Lord's. McCullum and Ross Taylor were never due to appear in that first tour game due to the IPL and their early arrival did not change plans, but strike bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult were left out. Boult, especially, looked short of rhythm when he began with three consecutive no-balls and continued to struggle with overstepping.

Southee found some swing with the new ball, as he will be expected to do throughout the tour, and found the edge of Varun Chopra in his third over. After that, however, Root and Michael Carberry, who shared an unbeaten 197-run stand in the corresponding fixture against West Indies last year, took charge with increasing fluency.

The second-wicket pair kept almost level pegging throughout. Carberry had reached his half-century first, an innings feature some characteristic one-legged pulls and strong square drives, but it is questionable how much more is being learned by playing a 32-year-old in a game such as this, regardless of whether he is next in line for a Test place. He missed a chance for a hundred when he picked out midwicket sweeping at Martin, giving the left-arm spinner a boost after a tricky day.

It was an opportune day for England's 2nd XI to fight back, with Andy Flower (here with the selectors putting the finishing touches to the Test squad to be announced on Saturday) and Andrew Strauss, who is now employed by the ECB for 25 days a year as a consultant, among those at the ground.

New Zealand will also be disappointed that more of their batsmen did not follow the lead of Rutherford. He had continued in the aggressive vein of the previous day - one crunching cover drive beat the sweeper despite him only having a few yards to run - but misjudged a single to mid-off as Chris Woakes hit direct. It departure gave others a chance, but they didn't take it.

McCullum, who was outstanding in a counter-attacking role during the series in New Zealand, pushed firmly at a full delivery from Graham Onions and edged to gully. However, he is one of those batsmen where you sense warm-up form is not a vital factor come Test match time.

BJ Watling was comfortable until getting an inside edge into middle stump against Woakes, while Dean Brownlie batted throughout the session, quietly accumulating, largely off the back foot as is his preferred style, but the lower order did not stay with him. Southee accompanied him briefly in a scatter-gun innings which included getting off the mark with a pulled six and being dropped twice off Ravi Bopara - once by the bowler himself then at slip by Chopra - before being trapped lbw.

Seven down at lunch, the innings was over swiftly after the break as Simon Kerrigan added his name to the wicket-takers when he beat Martin's attempt to pull then Toby Roland-Jones, given another spell downhill, ensured no rally from the tail to perhaps flatter himself slightly with four wickets.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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