England's past, present and future combine in Harry 'n' Joe's Shawshank-and-sledgehammer stand
The contrasting styles led to a switch between looking at the past enduring into the present and the future happening right in front of it
Alongside him was Harry Brook with 184* of his own from 169 deliveries - 13 fewer than what Root faced for century number 29. A double-hundred (plus tax) that was on the cards for Brook before the end of play was over. That he didn't get there was probably no bad thing. A fourth hundred in six innings, the first player to pass 800 runs in his first nine innings outright, a new career-best - you can have too many accomplishments, you know. Then again, he didn't celebrate much at all today, a cursory removal of the helmet and raising of the arms after he late cut Daryl Mitchell in the middle session. "He [Root] was actually more excited for me than I was getting a hundred," Brook, like a child embarrassed by a parent, said afterwards.
Ultimately, it was the differences between two of Yorkshire's favourite sons that allowed England to emerge from the morning's assault by New Zealand's quicks to surge into a remarkable position.
The only thing in common before they set about their currently unbeaten stand of 294 was the score of 21 when they arrived at the crease. Root had faced just one delivery by the time Brook arrived at the fall of the third wicket. The common goal was to rebuild, but they had very different ideas of how to go about this escape. Root opted for the Shawshank approach, spooning through the walls while Brook went straight for the sledgehammer. When Root brought up 100 balls, he had scored just 36 with the sole boundary. Brook, at the same stage of his innings, had 96 by virtue of 15 boundaries - two of which were monster sixes down the ground off Mitchell.
Even Brook's words speak of an emotion to what followed from the seventh over that carried them through to the 65th: "I've always enjoyed watching Rooty bat and probably enjoy batting with him more than I enjoy watching him." And to go back to the reaction to the centuries, there was a sense of roles being reversed.
It was the treatment of Mitchell that was perhaps an example of how they tag-teamed the recovery. Root only scored 12 off 23 from Mitchell, who was brought on as the first-change bowler, opting to tee his partner up to land the more telling blows. Brook delivered, in style: three fours and four sixes contained within 31 deliveries reaping 49.
Root needed his century more than Brook needed his. Earlier in the week, the former captain spoke honestly (perhaps too honestly) about his struggle to find his rhythm in this line-up. The compulsion to push the game into fast-forward was affecting previously immaculate decision-making. And while the situation put in front of Root narrowed his focus, it was the work of Brook at the other end that enabled him, enough that he brought out his patented reverse scoop to move to 92, barely a week on from when it brought about his downfall in the first innings of the previous Test in Mount Maunganui.
Having reasoned the early strong form under Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes after Root gave up the captaincy, this first century since July 2022 marks the beginning of a new chapter. That it was Brook at the other end, a player Root had previously failed to keep up with, was all the better and added to the fascination with this England team at the moment; particularly that one of these two is starting to fit in and the one who really gets it has only just arrived.