Joe Root’s ‘best’ ton and the weather spares England
England captain Joe Root refused to accept that his side got away lightly with a day five wash-out at the first LV= Insurance Test against India, insisting the rain also halted their own push for victory.
Root was honest enough to accept that the tourists were better placed to claim the result at Trent Bridge, needing 157 more runs with nine wickets in hand, but he was in no mood to treat the outcome as an inevitability.
It was his own superb second-innings century – rated by some seasoned pundits as the best of his 21 in the Test arena – that dragged England back from the brink and into the conversation but to finish the job it would be down to the bowlers.
And with an attack boasting two of the most prolific seamers in history, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, as well as a rapidly rising star in Ollie Robinson – who arguably outshone both here – Root had plenty of reasons to look on the bright side.
India will doubtless be rueng the abandonment even more keenly after four days ahead of the curve and with the finish line in sight.
“I’d be lying if I said that India weren’t in the driving seat going into today but we know, on a wicket like that, the game can turn on its head,” said Root, after the umpires finally made the call at 3.49pm.
“From my perspective, at one stage it looked like we could have potentially had 40 overs out there and, in that period, it felt like we’d have been able to create nine chances on a surface like that.
“So in many ways I think actually the weather’s robbed us all of a fantastic final day’s Test cricket, which is a shame.
“With the pressures of batting on a fifth-day wicket, things could very quickly have fallen in our favour and we certainly believed that we’d have been able to create more chances.
“If we’d have been good enough in the field and taken those then we could have been sat here 1-0 up, but unfortunately the weather has won.”
Root’s upbeat assessment is unlikely to extend fully to the internal post-match debrief as England look to kick their performance up a gear at Lord’s next week.
The room for improvement is self-evident: too many of their batsmen are failing to offer Root the required level of support and their catching has not been good for some time. Whether the same XI will be asked to put things right themselves at the home of cricket remains to be seen, with reinforcements such as Haseeb Hameed and Ollie Pope hoping to be called upon.
It has been almost five years since Hameed last played but he is part of the current squad having shown enough red-ball form to make him a viable contender to the faltering top-order. Pope, meanwhile, will surely come in if he is passed fit after a thigh injury.
“We’re going to Lord’s a lot more confident but there’s a lot to work on,” said Root.
“We know there are areas we need to be better: we need to take our chances in the field and we need to make big first-innings runs.
“It is something we have spoken about and harp on about time and time again. We are capable of doing it.
“Depending on conditions we might have to alter our side slightly and we might not. We might turn up at Lord’s and see things very similar.
“We have to be adaptable, we have to be pragmatic. And the guys who are given an opportunity must look to stand up and try to win games for England.”
Of those under pressure for their place, Zak Crawley is in the most troubling run of form. Since a sensational double century against Pakistan last September he has averaged a shade over 11, with 10 single-figure scores from 14 innings.
It is a thorny decision considering how highly-rated he is as a long-term prospect – and one Root must wrestle with.
“I look back to the early stages of my career and the game tests you, it really does,” he said.
“Ultimately you have to be a very strong character and I think Zak is certainly that. He is someone that’s got great maturity at a young age.
“He’s shown everyone that he can perform at this level and next time he gets out there, he’s got to make sure that he believes in that and he really enjoys that opportunity to go and make big runs again.”
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