Joe Root rates England’s series victory over world No 1 opponents India as his best campaign so far as Test captain.
Root, who began his tenure with home wins over South Africa and West Indies before a miserable Ashes winter, identifies a new springboard for success in England’s battle for supremacy against India.
The Yorkshireman described his team as a captain’s “delight” after they defended 245 on the fourth day of the fourth Specsavers Test to prevail by 60 runs as Moeen Ali (4-71) broke India’s resistance to take an unassailable 3-1 lead with just the one match to play.
As well as Moeen’s nine-wicket match haul, this was a contest notable for Root’s insistence on day three that he would drop down again from three to his favoured No 4 batting position.
It all worked out in the end – and asked if it was his best series as captain, Root said: “Yes, I think it probably has been.
“I feel like I’ve had quite a big input into what’s been going on, felt very (much) in control of things – and I’ve got a real clear vision of how I see us improving long term.
“We’ve got some guys who are very willing to buy into that, and are very realistic and understanding of where we currently are and where we could really get to down the line.”
Virat Kohli’s India have made it a titanic struggle, and Root’s opposite number was at it again as he and Ajinkya Rahane both dug in for half-centuries and shared a fourth-wicket stand of 101 in their attempts to square the series at 2-2.
Moeen eventually dismissed both, though, and Root added: “I hope it’s a big step in the right direction for us, and we can go from strength to strength.
“When you have that understanding across the board, and there’s no selfish people within a team, it makes things very easy indeed.
We’ve got some guys who are very willing to buy into that, and are very realistic and understanding of where we currently are and where we could really get to down the line.England captain, Joe Root
“For us to be in that position and to have a group of players who play in that manner is a delight as a captain.”
He kept the faith throughout that England could defend their total on what everyone considered to be a wearing pitch.
“I was fairly confident that if we bowled to our potential ... then we’d have enough in the bank to get across the line,” added the Yorkshireman.
“The biggest challenge for us was if we could stay calm and collected and trust that if we stuck to what we wanted to do for long periods of time the wicket would do the rest for us.
Moeen was central to England’s efforts, in his first match since being dropped after a miserable Ashes series in what was a poor winter all-round for the Worcestershire all-rounder.
“He’s been brilliant,” added Root.
“I couldn’t be more pleased for him.
“He’s such a big part of this team, and I think that’s going to be the case moving forward.”
England’s specialist batsmen have had a meagre summer, but Root insists there are mitigating factors.
“You’ve also got to be realistic about the conditions we’ve been playing in,” he said.
“I thought after being 80-6 on day one, to then go out and play in different but still difficult conditions in the second innings – and go about things how we did – was a start to a really significant improvement.”
Kohli must come to terms with defeat, albeit by narrow margins both here and at Edgbaston last month.
He said: “We can look at the scoreboard and say we were only 30 runs away or 50 runs away, but we have to recognise that when we are in the midst of the situation, and not later.
“When you come so close, there is an art of crossing the line as well, which we will have to learn.”