Under Root’s captaincy, England took their alarming losing sequence to six defeats in eight Tests as they succumbed limply by nine wickets to Pakistan in the first match of the home summer.
The Yorkshireman was not hiding away from evident problems after England were dispatched early on day four at Lord’s – where they were bowled out for 184 after he chose to bat and then could set Pakistan only 64 to win after mustering 242 at their second attempt.
It was the continuation of a miserable theme, thoroughly established through last winter’s 4-0 Ashes trouncing and 1-0 setback in New Zealand – and all the more concerning that it has followed them home.
“We know we’re under-performing ... we’ve not performed to anywhere we need to,” said Root, whose hosts must win at Headingley in the second NatWest Test to avoid series defeat.
“It’s very difficult to take as a talented group of players ... (but) we fully believe we can get to where we want to get to.”
Asked for his message to those who follow England in the hope of improvement, Root added: “Keep the faith, keep trusting, keep believing.
“We’ve got to ... just find a way.”
He insists, despite obvious failings in the middle, England are doing everything right in practice.
“We worked a lot harder – the intensity in practice was definitely better,” he said. “That’s going to make us a better team, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
“We put in some really hard work, and we’ve got to continue to do that and keep believing that will get us to where we want to get to.
“We have looked at things, and had a really good chat about how we wanted to approach this summer – and I think we went about things the right way. We’ve got to give it time to work.”
It is becoming a grim patience test, however.
“Putting that practice into the game was what was really disappointing this week – because it didn’t happen,” said Root.
“We’ve been outplayed across all three departments – and in particular, it was disappointing with the bat first up. It really hurt us not getting the score we needed.
“We were well below par and always chasing the game really, trying to find a way back in.”
He and coach Trevor Bayliss do not appear tempted to change the team significantly for the second Test at Headingley on Friday – although in an interview with Sky Sports, the latter’s frustration was clear.
Root said: “It’s easy to look at [this result] and say ‘Right, we need to make drastic changes’.
“But it’s not just one or two guys – we were collectively all under par this week. We have to take that on the chin, learn the lessons very quickly and make sure we respond well.
“It would be very easy to go into next week feeling sorry for ourselves and think there’s no way forward for us – but absolutely there is.”
Bayliss added: “(This) was nowhere near good enough for Test level ... to be bowled out for 180 and 240 is simply not good enough. They are working hard on it, but we keep making the same mistakes. The batters have to have a good, hard, long look at themselves.”
Jos Buttler (67) and Dom Bess (57) could add only a combined three runs to the spirit demonstrated in their stand of 126 on Saturday – and on the resumption, fanciful hopes of an improbable victory faded fast as England lost their last four wickets for seven in 25 balls to be bowled out for 242.
As Mohammad Amir (4-36) and Mohammad Abbas (4-41) shared the spoils, and Pakistan were set only 64 for victory.
But for the oasis of Buttler and debutant No 8 Bess’s seventh-wicket partnership – which more than doubled the total after they joined forces on a sorry second-innings 110-6, with 69 runs needed to avoid an innings defeat –England were outplayed in all departments here.
From the moment Root chose to bat first in awkward conditions, his team was unable to rise to the challenge with bat, ball or in the field.
The final act contained an early wicket, James Anderson seeing off Azhar Ali, but otherwise Pakistan completed their straightforward task without alarm and well in time for lunch.
England resumed with apparent reason for a minor spring in their step thanks to Buttler and Bess.
But the former was gone in only the second over – before Pakistan could even get their hands on the second new ball.
Buttler fell lbw on the front foot, shaping to push-drive Abbas, and Mark Wood then mustered one boundary past cover off the same bowler before he was caught behind off Amir at the other end.
Abbas had his fourth wicket when Stuart Broad also edged to Sarfraz Ahmed for a duck – and a pair – and then Bess was last out, clean-bowled trying to attack Amir.
Pakistan had done all the hard work and produced a clinical performance almost throughout the four days.
The tourists were minus a frontline batsman, Babar Azam out with a broken arm after being hit by a nasty short ball from Ben Stokes in the first innings.
If there were any jitters, though, after Anderson’s early strike, they did not last long.
Imam ul-Haq and Haris Sohail did the necessary in an unbroken half-centuy stand – and the mirage of England resistance which flickered for a session on Saturday evening had disappeared in the blink of an eye.