Root, Pope lead England nearer New Zealand sweep
Jack Leach took 10 wickets in a Test for the first time in his career before Ollie Pope and Joe Root set about leading England's charge to a series whitewash of New Zealand at Headingley on Sunday.
England were 183-2 at stumps on the fourth day of the third and final Test, needing just a further 113 runs to reach a target of 296 on Monday's last day.
Pope was 81 not out and Root, on his Yorkshire home ground, 55 not out, with the third-wicket pair having shared an unbroken stand of 132.
England will be firm favourites to wrap up a 3-0 series success over Test world champions New Zealand after chasing down stiff targets of 277 and 299 in five-wicket wins at Lord's and Trent Bridge respectively.
Alex Lees was run out attempting a needless single when New Zealand captain Kane Williamson's throw was well gathered-in by bowler Trent Boult.
Zak Crawley's innings ended in familiar fashion when, having made 25 that included 24 runs in boundaries, he tamely chipped spinner Michael Bracewell to Williamson at cover.
Former captain Root came in with England 51-2.
Even while presiding over a run of just one win from 17 Tests prior to this series that prompted his resignation as captain, Root's own form never dipped -- in 2021 he scored 1,708 Test runs at a superb average of 61.
Such was New Zealand's desire to dismiss Root they wasted two of their three reviews this innings off successive Tim Southee deliveries in near-identical attempts to get clearly correct not out lbw decisions overturned when the star batsman was on one.
Root further delighted fans who had been told they could attend the fifth day for free -- as was the case in Nottingham last week -- with an outrageous reverse-ramp six off left-arm quick Neil Wagner.
Pope, whose fifty came off 66 balls, showed his class by hitting three fours off consecutive Wagner deliveries, including a superb straight drive.
And with Headingley bathed in sunshine, the last over of the day saw Root complete a 78-ball fifty with a legside boundary off Bracewell.
Selected ahead of Ajaz Patel, a frontline spinner, Bracewell had expensive close figures of 1-70 in 11 overs.
Earlier, New Zealand's Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell had frustrated England yet again with their fourth century stand of the series before paceman Matthew Potts sparked a collapse.
Leach had already secured a place in Headingley history with a memorable one not out in a dramatic one-wicket Ashes Test win over Australia at the Leeds ground in 2019.
But this match has seen the 31-year-old Somerset bowler excel in his primary role of left-arm spinner.
He followed a first-innings return of 5-100 with an even better 5-66 on Sunday to give him 10-166 in the 25th Test of his career.
Leach polished off the tail after Potts, in his debut Test series, had made a key breakthrough by removing the in-form Mitchell lbw for 56 to end a sixth-wicket stand of 113.
Mitchell, who only played in the series opener at Lord's after Henry Nicholls was sidelined, finished a campaign where he scored three hundreds with a tally of 538 runs -- the most by any overseas batsman in a series of three Tests or fewer in England
When the 31-year-old was out, the Black Caps were still well-placed at 274-6, a lead of 243.
Leach, however, lured Bracewell into hoisting a catch to deep midwicket before deceiving Southee with a quicker arm ball.
Wagner then fell in unusual fashion when replacement wicketkeeper Sam Billings, who only took the field Sunday as a Covid-19 replacement for Ben Foakes, grabbed an edge off Leach that had lodged between his legs.
When Leach bowled Boult to end the innings, Blundell was left stranded shy of what would have been his second hundred of the series on 88 not out.