CAPTAIN Joe Root insists his England team cannot be faulted for effort despite losing the Ashes at the earliest opportunity this winter.
England’s attempted Perth rearguard amounted to 218 all out and defeat by an innings and 41 runs after Australia had racked up 662-9 declared – their highest Ashes total on home soil – on the way to a series-sealing 3-0 scoreline.
While Root’s opposite number Steve Smith was holding back tears of joy in the home dressing room, and England coach Trevor Bayliss found himself defending his position, Yorkshireman Root spoke of “bitter disappointment”, but unsurprisingly refused to play the blame game with any of his players.
His predecessor Alastair Cook and fellow Ashes veteran Stuart Broad are among those who have failed to live up to their billing over the past month.
But Root emphasised the graft put in by one and all, and even wondered aloud whether he himself has perhaps been trying too hard for his own good.
“It’s bitterly disappointing,” he said. “(But) they tried absolutely everything. It wasn’t for the lack of effort.
“We went through every plan – different fields, bowling straight, hanging it wide, every now and again a bit of bumper warfare. It felt like we didn’t leave anything to chance.”
Root was left bemoaning the same factors here as in Brisbane and Adelaide – that England matched Australia, even out-performed them at times, but simply not for long enough.
“I don’t think these three games are a fair reflection of how we’ve played and what we’re capable of,” he added. “I think we need to do ourselves and the supporters back home justice.
“Probably the biggest thing that has been to my detriment is trying too hard. I’ve been desperate to win this series.”
I think we need to do ourselves and the supporters back home justice. Probably the biggest thing that has been to my detriment is trying too hard. I’ve been desperate to win this series.England captain, Joe Root.
Asked about the meagre contributions of old hands like Cook and Broad, Root spelled out that he and Bayliss retain faith in players with world-class records.
“It is very important, for me and Trevor, that we don’t panic or make hasty decisions,” he said. “One of the most frustrating things is that we haven’t been blown away or completely outplayed.
“We have put up some really good performances in all three matches – simple as that, really – just not for long enough. There have been periods when we have matched and outplayed Australia.
“I am sure the next day or so will be pretty tough, but we have got a bit of time now to get right for Melbourne and make sure our minds are fully on putting in a really strong performance, and showing the character we have.”
Asked about the security of his position as coach, Bayliss defended it on the basis of favourable performances on his watch overall and deferred any decision about his future to people “above my pay grade”. The Australian did concede, however, after England’s seventh successive Test defeat away from home – dating back to last winter’s tour of India – that improvement is overdue on their travels.
“We’ve just got to get better...in foreign conditions,” he said. “We’ve played extremely well during the summer, but in conditions that don’t necessarily suit us, that’s where we need to be better.”
Bayliss’s former New South Wales protege Smith was by contrast struggling to contain his elation and pride at leading his country to a famous home win.
“I was crying in the sheds a bit a minute ago,” he said. WEverything just came out. The boys have been magnificent. It really is what dreams are made of as an Ashes captain to be up 3-0.
“We have worked incredibly hard. I am just so proud of everyone back in that room.”
Smith led by example with a career-best 239 in response to England’s 403 all out.
Despite some resistance from Dawid Malan, who followed up his first-innings century with a defiant 54 yesterday, Australia never looked back after Hazlewood took the wicket of Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow with his first ball of the day.
Smith paid a special tribute to frontline bowlers Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon.
He said: “I’m just so proud of the boys. The way we’ve been able to win this series and wrap things up here in Perth and get that urn back, it’s been quite amazing.
“The (bowlers) have done a terrific job to get us the 20 wickets that we’ve needed in every game. We haven’t won a toss and we’ve probably had the toughest of the conditions as well. I’m just really proud of everyone in that dressing room.”