Joe Root has taken issue with former England captain Michael Vaughan’s claim that his team (Vaughan later clarified that he was referring to the batting only) failed to respect Test cricket on their way to a 340-run defeat against South Africa at Trent Bridge.
Vaughan voiced his stinging criticism of Root’s men after they had lost their last seven first-innings wickets for 62 runs to be bowled out in little more than 50 overs.
Root’s counter-attacking style briefly paid dividends in his innings of 78 from just 76 balls, but Vaughan suggested England did themselves few favours by adopting a “Twenty20” tempo which backfired.
“The England batting has been appalling,” he said on the BBC’s Test Match Special. “Maybe it’s a lack of respect about what the game is.
“They look like they are playing a Twenty20 game. They have this approach of attack, attack, attack. There is no thought or feeling of seeing off a bowler or wearing a team down.”
England fared even worse in their second innings, bowled out for 133 in only 44.2 overs in notional pursuit of a world-record target of 474 as South Africa levelled the four-match series at 1-1 and consigned their opponents to a sixth defeat in their last eight Tests.
Root, who has been in charge for just the last two Tests, took umbrage at the remarks of his long-time friend and mentor – who rose from the same club, Sheffield Collegiate, to captain his country.
Asked for a reaction to Vaughan’s remarks, he said: “I think that’s very unfair – I can’t believe he’s actually said that.
“We pride ourselves on winning series like this, and unfortunately we’ve played poorly this week.”
Vaughan was far from England’s only critic after they had lost inside four days, with his fellow former Test captain Nasser Hussain describing recent selections as “abysmal” and identifying a “rubbish brand of cricket”.
Root concedes modern cricket is in flux as batsmen try to separate Test match demands from those of fast-evolving limited-overs formats, but adds England must adapt.
“A lot of sides do (it) in world cricket … (because of) the amount of white-ball cricket we play and the crossover,” said Root.
“But that’s part and parcel of Test cricket – we need to be better at that. There’s no shying away from that.
“We need to make sure we learn quickly … (so that) if we are in a similar situation (in the third Test) at The Oval, for example, we play it slightly smarter.”
That means achieving a winning formula of defence and attack.
“Part of Test cricket is trying to find a balance of both – and even if it’s not your strength, you build it into your natural game,” Root added.
“You have periods where you can absorb a bit of pressure and find the right moment to apply it when chances come along.
“I think throughout this game we have not done that very well at all.
“We are capable of doing it and have done it previously, but this wasn’t a very good example of it.”
Root has experienced the joys of Test victory and then landslide defeat in quick succession at the start of his captaincy tenure this month.
As he came to terms with the latter, he said: “I definitely feel older – it’s been a tough week.
“South Africa responded very well from Lord’s – and especially with the bat, we didn’t assess the situation well enough in the first innings.
“After that, we couldn’t find a way to get back into the game.
“It was very disappointing the way we played today.
“We’re a side that doesn’t like giving anything away, and unfortunately today that wasn’t a fair representation of how good we are as a team.”
Root’s opposite number Faf du Plessis had an instant galvanising effect, having returned after missing South Africa’s defeat at Lord’s because of the birth of his first child.
He said: “Pretty much from the toss through to the last ball we bowled, we were in control of the Test match.
“We know England are a good team at transferring pressure, coming out and playing shots.
“But if they’re playing shots, for me as a captain, we’ve always got an opportunity to take wickets.”
(Provided by Press Association)