Rory Burns insists Joe Root has the backing of everyone in the England camp after the pair both recorded centuries on day three of the second Test against New Zealand at Hamilton.
There has been scrutiny over whether the captaincy is impinging on Root’s batting because of his average of just 27.4 in his 10 previous Tests this year, but he ended his lean trot with an unbeaten 114 at Seddon Park.
The 259 deliveries Root took to reach three figures was the slowest of his 17 Test hundreds, six of them have come at the helm of the side, but his innings, allied to Burns’ 101, helped England to 269 for five.
The tourists were denied the chance to reduce arrears of 106 further after rain washed out the last hour but Root will be at the crease at the start of day four as England go in search of a first-innings lead.
Burns said: “It’s obviously really nice to see the skipper get his runs.
“He’s a very good player and a lot of stuff has been potentially said in recent times. Not scoring runs as a batsman might bring other things into the equation which isn’t necessarily true.
“It’s because when he bats like that, everyone’s behind him and knows exactly what he can do.
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“For Rooty to get those runs, he’ll be feeling very good but he also knows that there’s more runs to be had and there’s another partnership to get into and can we extend this and can we stretch the game in our favour.”
Root’s 177-run stand alongside Burns came a day after England seamer Stuart Broad had said: “If you’re a batsman, you’d want to bat out there.”
Broad added that Burns was the key batsman on a surface that was benign for most of the day, allowing the Surrey captain and Root to accumulate steadily against a willing but largely nonthreatening attack
Asked whether the words of Broad were still ringing in his ears Burns, who was dropped twice on Saturday night, said: “I didn’t read that – he told me.
“I’m not sure he said that I was the key wicket, he just said that he fancied me, slightly. I’m glad that I made his words come true.
“I just tried to apply myself for as long as I could, it came to a slightly disappointing end but I thought I played quite well.”
Root and Burns were only parted when the opener came back for a second run and was short of his ground by the thinnest of margins.
Burns added: “It was my call at the end of the day and that’s where my Surrey strength and conditioning coach will be slightly disappointed because he prides himself on my run twos. I’ve probably let him down there.
“I enjoyed the fact that I got it but at the same time I’m disappointed that I couldn’t stretch that and me and Rooty couldn’t stretch our partnership and get us deeper into the game.”
Burns’ dismissal saw England slip from 201 for two to 262 for five, which New Zealand seamer Tim Southee thinks has shifted the momentum slightly.
He said: “I think it’s pretty evenly poised. If we’re able to grab a couple of wickets early then I guess it’s up to us to finish it off. On the flip side if England bat well then it strengthens their position.”
New Zealand managed to restrict Root to scores of two and 11 at Mount Maunganui, where New Zealand’s innings win put them into an unassailable 1-0 lead in this two-Test series.
Root has subsequently fallen out of the top 10 in the International Cricket Council’s Test batting rankings but Southee always feared it would not be long before he hit his stride.
Southee added: “There’s always that worry when good players miss out. He’s had a little bit of a dry patch and being the quality player that he is, it was only a matter of time before he was able to score a big one.
“We were hoping it was going to be another couple of weeks but he played nicely when his team needed him.”