Joe Root did the unthinkable in a run chase against New Zealand, shocking cricket fans around the world with the most outrageous shot possible.

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.

England were 2/183 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 day five.

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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.

Root, one of world cricket’s more conventional batters, may be auditioning for a spot in England’s white-ball teams as he pulled off an absurd reverse scoop for six off New Zealand’s most intimidating fast bowler, Neil Wagner.

On 16, the former captain was obviously getting fed up leaving balls angled across him outside off stump or driving down the ground, so adopted a different tactic. He changed his stance, got down on one knee and sent Wagner sailing over the fence at third man with what will surely rank as the most astonishing shot of Root’s Test career.

Kiwi commentator Simon Doull called it a “ludicrous reverse sweep” in commentary for Sky Sports. “My goodness,” he added, as co-caller Mark Butcher giggled along, saying “you cannot legislate for this”.

“Quite extraordinary,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, social media went into meltdown.

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.

Root came in with England 2/51 following the needless run out of Alex Lees and the latest tame exit of Zak Crawley, who chipped a catch to cover.

Root, even while presiding over a run of just one win from 17 Tests prior to this series that prompted his resignation as captain, kept making runs — in 2021 he scored 1708 in Tests at a superb average of 61.

Such was New Zealand’s desperation 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.

With Headingley bathed in sunshine, the last over of the day saw Root complete a 78-ball fifty with a leg-side boundary off Michael Bracewell.

Selected for just his second Test ahead of Ajaz Patel, a frontline spinner, Bracewell had expensive stumps figures of 1/70 from 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 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 in 2019. But this week the 31-year-old has excelled in his main role of left-arm spinner by taking 10/166 in his 25th Test, with the Somerset favourite following a first-innings haul of 5/100 with an even better 5/66 on Sunday.

Those figures were a testament to both his skill and the faith shown in Leach by new England captain Ben Stokes.

“It was very special here at Headingley, I had good memories from 2019 and first game back here and I enjoyed it,” Leach told Sky Sports.

“Stokesy’s confidence in his decisions and in us is like nothing I have ever experienced before.”

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 6/274, a lead of 243. But they were all out for 326.

Leach lured Bracewell into hoisting a catch to deep mid-wicket 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.

“We’ve just got to fight,” Blundell told reporters. “We’ve got to come out first thing tomorrow (Monday), put a couple of wickets on the score and you never know.”

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