WELLINGTON (Reuters) - The smile on Joe Root’s face midway through the final session on the third day of the second test against New Zealand underlined the overwhelming relief he must have been feeling.
Root had just under-edged the ball past the stumps for his 13th boundary and 17th test century, ending an almost 10-month drought between centuries for the normally prolific batsman.
The 28-year-old had not achieved three figures in a test since he scored 122 against the West Indies in St. Lucia and was averaging just 27.10 this year prior to his current innings.
Such was his poor run of form there were suggestions from the British media the captaincy was weighing on his batting and it was probably better that he relinquish the leadership role.
The right hander, however, said before the match that England need to win to level the two-test series, that he felt he was close to turning the corner because he was moving well and getting into good positions to score runs.
He brought up his century with successive boundaries off Neil Wagner, moving from 95 to 99 with a leg glance.
He then went past 100 with an under edge that bounced over the stumps and past wicketkeeper BJ Watling. Root punched the air and broke into a wide grin after he was aware the ball had run away.
The celebration was not lost on opening batsman Rory Burns, who had scored his second test century and combined with Root for a 177-run third wicket partnership to resurrect England’s innings.
“He played beautifully,” Burns told Britain’s Sky Sports. “It’s nice to see him back where he wants to be.”
The innings also dispelled any questions about his form, according to former England pace bowler Steve Finn.
“One of the signals of a classic Joe Root innings is him getting to 20 before you’ve noticed it,” Finn told the BBC.
“That business is what you characterise Root with, and we saw that.
“Yes, it did end up being his slowest test century but in and around a lot of disciplined bowling, we saw some very nice shots.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan