Innings gave me a ‘kick up the backside’ – Root

LONDON (Agencies): Joe Root says his second-innings half-century in England’s first-Test defeat of New Zealand has given him a “kick up the backside”.

The former captain has gone seven Tests without making a hundred, his longest spell without a ton in two years. He looked fluent in his 57 made from 62 balls in Mount Maunganui, as England won by 267 runs.

“I’ve not performed for a little while, so I had the bit between my teeth in the second innings,” said Root.

“It’s given me a little sharpener, a kick up the backside, that this is how I need to play my cricket, how I can be consistently useful in this group.” From the beginning of 2021 to the middle of last summer, Root was in form unmatched by any other batter on the planet, scoring 11 hundreds in 24 Tests and averaging 61.

His batting form remained strong despite the unravelling of his captaincy, with England winning only one of his last 17 Tests in charge. Root was replaced by Ben Stokes in May last year and his form initially remained strong, with three hundreds in four Tests after giving up the captaincy.

But as England have gone from strength to strength under Stokes – the win at the Bay Oval was their 10th in 11 matches – Root’s form has regressed. The 32-year-old believes it will “take some time” for him to fully adjust to England’s ultra-aggressive style under Stokes. “There was the initial relief of coming out of the captaincy and now I’m just trying to find out what my role is within this team,” said Root.

“I’ve maybe got a bit caught up in it, but I’m not too far away from what’s given me success. I didn’t feel I tried to force it in the second innings and when I’m playing well that’s one of my strengths: I can score freely and I can rotate the strike. “I felt like I found a really good tempo in how I wanted to bat. “Under the leadership of Stokes and Brendon McCullum, England’s swashbuckling batting has seen Root regularly reverse-scoop pace bowlers.

In the first innings at Mount Maunganui he executed the stroke against left-armer Neil Wagner and picked up a boundary. When he attempted the stroke again, he was caught at slip to be dismissed for 14.

But the Yorkshire player says that setback will not stop him from attempting the shot again in Test cricket.

“You take calculated risks,” said Root. “I’ve got where I’ve got to by trusting my gut. It just didn’t quite work out.

“It’s not going to stop me playing it. It’s now part of my Test game and I’ll continue to utilise it when it’s the right time.”

England will look to win the series in the second and final Test in Wellington, which begins on Friday (22:00 GMT Thursday).

The tourists are aiming for a seventh successive Test win, a feat not achieved by England since Michael Vaughan’s team won eight in a row in 2004.

New Zealand have recalled pace bowler Matt Henry, who missed the first Test because of the birth of his first child. Fellow seamer Jacob Duffy and leg-spinner Ish Sodhi have been released from the Black Caps’ squad.