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Joe Root impresses captain Cook again
Joe Root’s youthful invention and James Anderson’s mature expertise were prime factors as England levelled the score at 1-1 with an impressive victory over New Zealand.
Anderson was rewarded for outstanding new and old-ball bowling with figures of 5-34 as the hosts were restricted to 269 all out, despite back-to-form Ross Taylor’s seventh one-day international hundred and a blistering 74 from Brendon McCullum.
Then Root’s career-best 79 not out was the pick of three England half-centuries as the tourists managed a comfortable chase to win by eight wickets and therefore head for a decider in Auckland on Saturday.
Captain Alastair Cook, who along with Jonathan Trott also topped 50 today, was delighted to see such telling contributions from England’s senior bowler and one of their youngest batsman.
“That is a good sign,” he said.
“You always want these new guys pushing the seniors for places.”
Root has made his international debut in all formats over the last two months.
Asked if the 22-year-old has surprised him with how quickly he has flourished, Cook said: “Yes, he has.
“Especially in that knock again today, he’s played shots I didn’t know he could play.
“He came in today when we needed seven runs an over, and played very well.
“The way he has handled himself in international cricket so far has been very good.
“A lot of playing international cricket is about temperament, and he’s certainly shown the right attitude and been able to handle pressure.”
Root did so again here, joining Trott when more than 120 runs were still needed at seven-an-over, and going on to dominate their unbroken partnership.
Cook acknowledges too that, when Kevin Pietersen is back to reclaim his top-four one-day international position at the start of next summer, there will be an added competition for places.
“It’s a good problem to have,” he said.
“Joe can only keep doing what he’s doing, scoring crucial runs.”
Root was not the only England player to shine at McLean Park, though - and among the others, Anderson augmented his new-found status as England’s all-time most prolific international wicket-taker.
“I thought the way Steven Finn and James Anderson really set that tone, the first 12 overs were probably the best I can remember from our bowlers,” said Cook.
“We put them right on the back foot.
“Because we had that great start, we felt that whatever runs they got we’d be okay on a cracking batting pitch.
“McCullum got them up to a defendable total, but I thought if we kept wickets in hand we were very comfortable in chasing it.
“It was a really good performance the way we bounced back from the other day, because obviously the pressure was on us to deliver when you’re 1-0 down in a three-match series.
“People stood up.”
Cook’s opposite number McCullum easily identified where his team had gone wrong.
“We didn’t have enough runs, and also weren’t able to get any sustained period of pressure (with the ball) to bring wickets,” he said.
“There were a few areas where we were short. But I thought England’s new-ball bowling, end-of-innings bowling and also their batting were outstanding today.”
The consolation for the Kiwis was Taylor’s first substantial innings since returning to the fold after losing the captaincy and falling out with coach Mike Hesson.
“I’m really pleased for Ross that he got a score, and it’s disappointing we weren’t able to get a win for him,” added McCullum.
“I thought he played really smart right the way through, and it’s great to see him back in form.”
As for Root, McCullum could hardly help but be impressed. “He’s busy, almost Australian-like with his presence at the crease,” he said.
“He’s right, he is very busy and hard to bowl at because he’s always trying to get off strike,” he said.
“You’ve got to take that as a compliment.”