Joe Root hopes England’s victorious Ashes campaign convinces Alastair Cook to remain as captain long into the future and has revealed that the team has been driven on this summer by the pain caused in the previous whitewash defeat by Australia.
Cook’s side now go into next week’s fifth Test at the Kia Oval looking to complete a resounding 4-1 series win over the tourists and named the injured attack leader, Jimmy Anderson, in their 14-man squad despite the match being a dead rubber.
Anderson continues to work with the medical staff to be fit for the finale after missing the innings victory at Trent Bridge due to a side-strain. And while the selectors insist he will not be risked given the importance of the winter tours, his presence in a full-strength party suggests there will be no let-up.
Root, who has been officially confirmed as the No1 Test batsman in the world following his first-innings 130 in Nottingham, endorsed this approach during the post-match celebrations when he admitted a huge part of the team’s motivation has come from correcting the 5-0 loss to Michael Clarke’s side on their 2013‑14 tour.
“That was one of the things that drove us forward,” Root said. “Knowing what we went through there, all that hurt and pain, all the stuff we’ve had to overcome since then, I think the way we have handled ourselves has been brilliant and it’s shown by the performances we’ve put in on the field.
“Personally, that was the inspiration. That was a tough tour, so when you get into a position of strength out in the middle and you know what it’s like to be on the wrong side of it, you want to make sure you drive it home. That’s something that has always been in the back of my mind. It’s definitely one of the reasons why this is so enjoyable.”
Cook’s improved leadership of the side has been highlighted after their Ashes-sealing win and appears to have dampened theories that, whatever the result, he was pondering stepping down from the captaincy after a tumultuous 18 months in English cricket.
“Cooky has been a fantastic captain throughout the series and throughout this summer,” Root said. “There have been times when we haven’t backed him up but thankfully this series we have. As far as captaincy is concerned, Cooky has just won the Ashes for the second time, so hopefully he’ll be in charge of us for a long time. He’s doing a fantastic job leading this group of players.”
Root, whose current average of 56.58 is second only to the great Ken Barrington in England’s post-war batsmen, believes his game remains far from perfected. But he has focused on ensuring that his natural scoring shots are in order and believes this has helped to improve his form since he was dropped for the Sydney Test in early 2014. “The main thing I did was stick to my strengths,” he said. “I worked on all the shots I thought were my bread and butter and made sure they were as good as they could possibly be. Rather than try to have the perfect game, I was going to make sure that, if balls came into areas where I felt comfortable scoring, then I was going to make sure I made it count. I have a lot of things I want to work on and I want to keep putting in strong performances.”
While Mark Footitt has made way for Anderson in the squad for the Oval Test that starts on 20 August, Adam Lyth will get a chance to convince the selectors he is worthy of a place on trips to United Arab Emirates and South Africa this winter.
Meanwhile Australia’s head coach, Darren Lehmann, has admitted mistakes were made by himself and his fellow selectors during their failed defence of the Ashes but has been assured of his job by the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland. “As a coach and selectors we’ve got things wrong at certain times, there’s no doubt about that,” said Lehmann. “We’ve got to own up like players have to – and everyone else – that our performances weren’t good enough, full-stop.”
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