VICE-CAPTAIN Joe Root has urged England to re-write history and complete a world record fourth-innings chase as the second Investec Test against New Zealand at Headingley reaches its climax today.
England were 44-0, having been set 455 for victory as New Zealand advanced their overnight score to 454-8 declared, when rain arrived shortly after the lunch interval and brought a premature conclusion to the fourth day.
The West Indies currently hold the record for the highest successful fourth-innings run chase with a score of 418 against Australia in 2003. England’s best stands at 332, also against Australia, in 1928.
A draw would be sufficient for England to secure a 1-0 series victory over the Black Caps having won the first Test at Lord’s, although Root insists England’s game-plan centres more on attack than simply batting out the remaining overs.
“There is quite a bit of work to do but we’ve got an opportunity to do something special,” said Root. “Guys need to do what they do best and be 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.”
Should the final day, for which the forecast is mixed, escape rain interruption, England would require an additional 411 runs at a rate of at least 4.19 an over. The current match run-rate is 4.21, primarily due to New Zealand’s adventure and expansive batting.
Their assault continued yesterday morning when 116 runs were plundered in 16 overs as off-spinner Mark Craig struck 58 and Tim Southee smashed 40 off just 24 balls. BJ Watling reached 120 before being held at third slip by Root off seamer James Anderson.
Skipper Alastair Cook will resume on 18 and first-innings centurion Adam Lyth on 24, while the chase for an improbable victory also provides the opportunity for members of the England top-order to rekindle much-needed batting form in the Test arena.
Warwickshire’s Ian Bell has amassed just 42 runs in his six Test innings since scoring 143 against the West Indies in Antigua in April, while Gary Ballance could only manage scores of zero and one at Lord’s.
“I think we need to just go out there and look at that first hour and make sure we get as much from that,” added Root. “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 chasing it down and just react and adapt accordingly.”
New Zealand’s Watling, who completed his fifth Test hundred during the Black Caps’ second innings. added: “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.”