Joe Root insists there are signs amid the frustration of England’s miserably unsuccessful winter that much-needed improvement is already under way.
Root’s men ended their five-month expedition to Australia and New Zealand without a win in seven Tests after their latest hosts hung on for a draw in the second Test in Christchurch to take the series 1-0.
The England captain nonetheless spoke of his “pride” at his team’s efforts to take 10 wickets on the final day after the Kiwis had closed on 256-8 as the sun set on their summer at picturesque Hagley Park.
For England, the view appears far from rosy as they reflect on a national-record 13th away Test without victory – dating back to October, 2016 – and another series defeat to add to this winter’s 4-0 Ashes trouncing.
They had 101.4 overs to try to break their duck and New Zealand’s resolve, as well as 23 the previous evening, but were thwarted by opener Tom Latham and No 8 Ish Sodhi’s respective rearguard innings of 83 from 207 balls and an unbeaten 56 off 168.
At the end of his arduous maiden winter as captain, Root said: “There will be a lot of frustrated people at home, and a lot of frustration within the side.
“We’ve not performed to our ability and not got the results we wanted. It’s been very disappointing.”
He identified reasons for optimism, however, and depicted last week’s embarrassing first-innings collapse to 58 all out in Auckland as a costly blip.
“I thought throughout this week in particular... we’ve definitely been more adaptable,” he added. “We’re nowhere near the finished article, or where we want to be as a side. “But, bar that 58... we’ve looked a much better side with the bat.
“You take that innings out of the series, and it looks very different – which is really frustrating.
We’ve not performed to our ability and not got the results we wanted. It’s been very disappointing.England captain, Joe Root
“We’ll continue to keep working hard, pushing ourselves and find a formula that really works for us abroad.”
As for the near miss here, he said: “We threw absolutely everything at them. We tried a number of different things, and I don’t think we could have tried much more.
“I’m very proud of the lads and the way they went about it, and how we continued to keep asking questions of them.
“We improvised quite quickly, and we looked like we were in the game. I do think we looked a real threat throughout.”
Ultimately, though, it came to nought despite Stuart Broad’s two wickets with the first two balls of the day.
Root predicts out-of-form, national record runscorer Alastair Cook will soon “answer questions with a big score” and believes others like James Vince and Mark Stoneman are “capable of special things in an England shirt” but must “go out and prove it” at the start of the domestic season.
Root’s opposite number, Kane Williamson, meanwhile, congratulated Sodhi and his stoic eighth-wicket partner Neil Wagner especially – but also paid tribute to the opposition.
“England played extremely well, threw a lot at us,” he said.
“It was a very tough Test match - they were very demanding, especially with the ball.
“Neil and Ish were heroic really. If it wasn’t for them, putting their hand up and weathering the storm – bumps and bruises and all – this series result could have been so different.”