Captain Joe Root and England need to regain some pride for their country after being embarrassed by Australia in the Third Test at the MCG.
England started day three, four wickets down and with Root and Ben Stokes at the crease, any small chance of victory was dependent on that partnership.
However, whatever hope they may have had overnight was quickly extinguished as Australia completed an innings and 14 run victory in just 82 minutes, winning the series and retaining the Ashes with two games to play.
Speaking post-match, Root said his side needs to be better when provided with opportunities in game-changing moments.
“We have to stay very mentally resilient, we have to keep working very hard at our games, keep looking at ways to get better and we have to make sure when we get our opportunities to get ahead of the game we take them,” Root said.
After losing the toss and being sent in and asked to bat, England could only score a miserly 185 runs in their first innings, a moment which the English captain said put his side behind the game.
“I thought having batted on that wicket 250-270 would have been a very good score, a par score on that surface and when it was doing as much as it did you would have very much in the game then you’re looking at a different game again,”
Root acknowledged the Australians excellent spell of bowling late on day two but said his batters needed to find a way to get through unscathed.
“I think last night was an outstanding spell of bowling from their attack and you’ve just got to find a way to get through it sometimes. [You need to] really battle hard and get through that period, not one down then [maybe] you’re looking at a different game,”
Root said the team knew how important it was to start well at the beginning of today’s play to give them any chance of victory.
“We knew that going into today we were more than capable of getting ourselves to a score with the players that were to come to the crease,” he said.
“It’s bitterly disappointing that we didn’t manage to do that but like I say you’ve got to front up, you’ve got to make sure that you stay very strong [and] you keep looking to improve all areas of our games individually and collectively.”
Bitterly disappointed being three-nil down and heading into the last two tests, Root hopes England can come away with something from the tour
“You have to have a really strong inner belief to be able to come back and we need to put some pride back into the badge. We need to give people back home something to celebrate and look fondly back on from this tour,”
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Australia has outplayed the English side in all three tests, but the English right-hand batter praised his bowler’s performances, admitting day two has been their ‘best day of the whole tour’.
”I think they’ve [Australia] definitely outplayed us in the three games, we’ve not been good enough. I think last night they showed their class and they were excellent with ball in hand,” Root said.
“I do think the way that we bowled yesterday was excellent as well, with everything else going on around this game to be able to put in a performance like that I think that was our best day of the whole tour.
“I’m bitterly disappointed for those bowlers because they kept us in the game very much with the way they went about things and we just have to keep looking to get better.”
Throughout this series, there has been a lot of talk about Root’s captaincy and tactics, but Root has given no thought of relinquishing the role.
“No I’m in the middle of a very important series my energy has to be all about how to win the next game, I can’t be selfish and start thinking about myself. I’ve got to keep looking to do everything we can to get the players in the best possible place to go win test matches,” he said.
“That’s a big part of captaincy is you’ve got to ready the players, you got to try and instil that belief in every single one of your team and your squad and more than ever now going into these last two games.”
With their poor performances recently in the test format, there have been calls for England Cricket Board to reset their attitude to the red-ball format to narrow the gap between other sides, after having been more focused on their performances in white-ball cricket.
“I think that is a long conversation that should probably be had at another time, I’d say that I think that the best 18 players from the county game are definitely on this tour,” Root said.
“There’s some very talented players within this squad and we have to keep looking to find ways of upskilling ourselves and each other and managing pressure points within a game better. I think that’s a big part of this game.
“Unfortunately, where the game is at in our country right now the only place you can really learn that is in the hardest environment [and] for what is quite a young batting group they’re having to learn out here in the harshest environments.
“You look back at 2015 and the reset that happened in white-ball cricket maybe that is something to be had in our red ball game.”
Root and Ben Stokes are the only players in England’s test team who have improved through their test careers. Root said the issue stems from how players are developed at the county level.
“I think the environment that they’re coming from is not readying them well enough for test cricket. With everything that surrounds test matches and different conditions and environments, if you’re not ready going into it, it makes it difficult to improve,”
On a positive note, Root finished the calendar year with 1708 runs, placing him third for the most runs made in a calendar year behind Viv Richards (1710 runs) and Mohammad Yousuf (1788 runs).
Root said he’s happy with his form but would trade it all for test match wins.
“[I] feel like I’m playing nicely at the minute [but] I’d swap it all for test match wins, any player would tell you there’s no better feeling in cricket than winning a test match,” he said.
“It’s great that I feel like my game’s improving and [I’m] evolving still as a player, even having played a lot of cricket and I’m desperate to keep doing that. It’s been a very tough year for a number of different reasons and there’s still some big challenges ahead so it’ll be a lot of focus and drive has to be put towards that.”
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