Joe Root has insisted a dominant win against Pakistan must not be allowed to “paper over the cracks” when it comes to England’s form in Test cricket.
The England captain saw his side end a two-match series all square at 1-1 after a thumping innings and 55-run victory completed inside three days at his Headingley home ground on Sunday. But this success, which meant England avoided a third successive series loss after reverses in Australia and New Zealand, only came about after Pakistan outplayed their hosts in all aspects of the game to win the first Test at Lord’s by nine wickets.
England don’t have another Test match until they welcome India for the first of a five-match series at Edgbaston in August, with their attention now on white-ball cricket as they begin the run-in to next year’s World Cup on home soil.
But Test skipper Root was keen that lessons be learnt from a lamentable loss at Lord’s. “It’s very important we don’t paper over the cracks and think this is going to be us [sorted out] forever,” Root told reporters. “We have to make sure we don’t find ourselves in those positions like last week [at Lord’s].”
“It could potentially be the start of something…It’s now about replicating it more consistently,” added Root, whose side would have dropped to a lowly seventh in the Test standings had they been beaten at Headingley. “I’m thrilled to bits. [But] we know we’re not the finished article—this is the first step toward our goal.”
England had lost six of their previous eight Tests and drawn the other two. That winless streak led to questions over whether head coach Trevor Bayliss should remain in charge of the Test side, for all he has guided the white-ball team to the top of the one-day international rankings.
But Root said the coach was an “easy target” for criticism, while Bayliss told BBC Radio’s Test Match Special: “To be honest, I don’t listen to what’s said in the media much at all. Everyone is allowed their opinion and whatever it takes to get yourself motivated is fine. But I couldn’t care less.”
England were on top at Headingley after making the most of what became bowler-friendly conditions to dismiss Pakistan for just 174 in their first innings, having lost the toss, with Stuart Broad taking three wickets on his watch to match figures of six for 66. They then enjoyed, by their own recent low standards, a successful opening stand as the recalled Keaton Jennings helped Alastair Cook, appearing in a record-breaking 154th consecutive Test, put on 53 for the first wicket.
But no member of the top order made a fifty and Root, arguably England’s best batsman, has now gone 20 innings without a Test hundred.
This match might have taken a different turn had not Jos Buttler been dropped on four. As it was Buttler, recalled as a specialist number seven by new selection chief Ed Smith at Lord’s, blazed his way to 80 not out in a total of 363.
“I hope he gains so much confidence from these two weeks, and really uses it to move himself forward as a Test player,” said Root of the dashing Buttler. “We all know how talented he is, what he’s capable of—so I hope this is something we’ll see a lot more frequently from him. That’s why he’s in the side, to try to take games away from the opposition as he did.”