JOE ROOT has claimed England are capable of not only breaking a world-record fourth-innings chase, but also scoring in excess of 400 runs on the final day of the second Investec Test at Headingley today.
England reached 44 without loss in response to being set 455 for victory by New Zealand before rain 15 minutes after lunch wiped out play on day four.
The hosts’ highest successful fourth-innings run chase was 332 against Australia in Melbourne in 1928, while West Indies hold the record with a score of 418 against the same opponents in Antigua 12 years ago.
In the circumstances, it would be understandable if England set out to bat all day and secure a series success, having won the opening Test at Lord’s last week.
But vice-captain Root is optimistic their chances of sealing a 2-0 victory have not been lost. “There is quite a bit of work to do, but we’ve got an opportunity to do something special,” he said.
“Obviously, rain coming, in a way, has made things a little bit harder for us because we’ve got every intention of going out t with a view to win the game. “That obviously means we’ve got less time to do that now.”
Without further interruption, there will be a minimum of 98 overs to be bowled on Tuesday, meaning England, requiring a further 411 for what would be a remarkable win, would require a run-rate of at least 4.19.
But the run-rate for the entire match has been 4.21, largely thanks to the contributions of New Zealand’s attacking instincts with the bat, and Root believes England’s players need to show a similarly “ruthless” streak.
Asked what would be needed to achieve victory, he said: “Guys just doing what they do best, and being very ruthless in the way they do it. At least one person is obviously going to have to stand up and play a really important innings. You look around that changing room and one to 11 they are match-winners, really.
“We’ve got every opportunity to go out there and chase them down. I think (we need to) just go out there and look at that first hour and make sure we get as much from that. The best start possible will give us the best opportunity of setting the chase up.
“The key is going out there with the view to chase them down and just react and adapt accordingly.”
New Zealand began the day on 338-6, but were able to punish more poor bowling from England yesterday morning. Mark Craig blasted nine fours and a six in his unbeaten 58 while Tim Southee contributed a quickfire 40 after BJ Watling, who completed his century on Sunday, was eventually out for an excellent 120 as the Kiwis declared on 454 for eight.
Understandably, Watling, playing in this game as a batsman only with a knee injury preventing him from his usual wicketkeeping duties, thinks the tourists are favourites to level the series. “We’ve still got 98 overs tomorrow and a good 30 overs with the second new ball, so we’re definitely backing ourselves to win the game,” he said.
“We know England won’t back down and they’ll be tough to get out there. It’s probably a day-four wicket as such, just with the weather today, so we’re going to come out strong tomorrow and try to pick up some early wickets and put them under some pressure.
“If they’re chasing, we’re always in the game.
“We’ve just got to do our skills and worry about what we’re trying to achieve and make sure we’re hitting some decent areas with the ball.”