First Ashes Test: England captain Joe Root sticks by his decisions

Captain Joe Root insisted he had no regrets about his teamsheet or his decision to bat first despite watching Australia cruise to victory in the first Ashes Test.

Defeated: Captain Joe Root walks off with his team after defeat during day four of the first Ashes Test. Pictures: Jason O'Brien/PA
Defeated: Captain Joe Root walks off with his team after defeat during day four of the first Ashes Test. Pictures: Jason O'Brien/PA

England attracted huge amounts of scrutiny for leaving James Anderson, Stuart Broad and the small matter of 1,156 Test wickets on the sidelines at The Gabba, with widespread shock Down Under and no shortage of dissenting voices at home.

Root then won the toss and batted under overcast skies and saw his side rolled over for 147.

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It was all uphill from there as Australia racked up a 278-run first-innings lead and finished off a nine-wicket victory by chasing down a meagre target of 20 on the fourth afternoon.

Hero: Australia's Nathan Lyon salutes the crowd.

Root, who said on the eve of the series that the next few weeks would define his reign, was bullish about both of the big calls.

With England having lost by 5-0 and 4-0 in the last two visits, he argued boldness was a necessity.

“We have to be brave, we have to look to do things differently to previous tours,” he said.

“If we go about things exactly as we have on the last two tours, we’re going to get the same results. I look back on the toss and I think it was the right decision. Being 29-4 makes it look like that’s not the case and credit to Australia to exploit those conditions a little bit.

Gone: Australia's Cameron Green claims the wicket of England's Joe Root.

“But if we get some sort of score on the board, with how that wicket started to behave today, you’re looking at a very different contest.”

As for the decision to rest record wicket-taker Anderson for the second Test and leave his nearest challenger out, he held firm.

Broad was ultimately shelved in favour of spinner Jack Leach, who was smashed for 102 in just 13 overs as part of a pre-planned attack by the Australian batters.

“In terms of selection, it’s easy to say with hindsight. We could have gone a different way but we wanted variety in our attack, we wanted different ways of changing the pace of things,” said Root.

“I wanted to be able to change the momentum of the game and we went with the spinner. Credit to Australia, they took on Leachy.

“I probably put quite a lot of that on myself for being slightly too aggressive with his fields early on. It’s probably more on my shoulders there and how I managed him rather than looking at the selection.”

Despite those words, it seems inconceivable that things will not change for this week’s day/night Test in Adelaide. Indeed, with the pink ball expected to swing under lights it seems highly likely both old stagers will be back in the spotlight.

“I think now is completely the wrong time to start talking about selection,” said Root.

“But it’s nice to know that they should be fit, available and ready to go fresh for those conditions if they’re required.”

Among the many frustrations from the Queensland curtain-raiser, Root made a couple of references to dropped chances in the field.

While Australia’s handiwork was immaculate, there were drops of varying difficulty from Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Haseeb Hameed and Chris Woakes as well as a couple of missed run outs.

“I genuinely believe if we take our chances and handle that initial first innings better, I’d be sat here in a very different position,” he concluded.

On a personal level Root responded well to a first-innings duck, sharing a stand of 162 with Dawid Malan in the second before being dismissed for 89. That means he is still waiting for a first Ashes hundred away from home, having failed to convert seven half-centuries.

“This tour is not about me getting runs in Australia, it’s about us winning,” he said.

“I know if I make big scores we have a better chance and I know I’m capable of a big score off the back of a very strong year with a lot of hundreds.”

England lost eight wickets for 77 on the fourth morning as early optimism turned to outright despair in Australia’s Brisbane stronghold.

Asked to chase a trifling target of 19, they needed just 5.1 overs to chalk up their 1-0 series lead with Ollie Robinson grabbing the consolation wicket of Alex Carey.

England have not won at ‘The Gabbatoir’ since 1986 and this was their seventh heavy defeat in their last nine visits.

Arriving at the ground full of optimism after an unbroken stand of 159 between Root and Malan on the previous evening, the tourists were steamrollered in a session.

From 220-2 overnight to 297 all out, it was another demoralising passage for a nation with a painful history at the ground.

Root and Malan had batted for almost four hours to slowly turn the tide on day three, chewing through 49 wicketless overs to plant the first few seeds of doubt in a home side who had leveraged a huge first innings lead of 278.

The possibility of twin centuries looked a good bet as the pair resumed but instead Malan added just two runs to his score of 80, lasting 15 minutes before Nathan Lyon finally made him his 400th Test victim.

The 34-year-old has spent most of the year stuck on 399 given Australia’s lack of Test cricket and a wicketless first innings here, letting out 11 months of nervous energy when Malan took a step down the track and nicked a bat-pad chance to silly point.

Just Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath have ever reached that landmark before for the Baggy Greens and he celebrated by taking another three to claim figures of 4-91.

Root, on 89, made an innocuous exit as he feathered Cameron Green through to the wicketkeeper. and from there the game was up.