Joe Root has warned England they must learn quickly from their Trent Bridge trouncing if they are to stay in the “driving seat” against India this summer.
England’s captain agreed that the hosts effectively lost the third Test, ultimately by 203 runs, in one session on day two when their “very poor” first-innings batting saw all 10 wickets fall between lunch and tea.
But he believes the way to turn the 2-1 lead they still have into series victory in Southampton next week lies not just in reflection on where it all went wrong but also Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes’ exemplary batting in second-innings adversity.
Only one team in Test history, Don Bradman’s 1936/37 Ashes winners, have recovered from 2-0 down to prevail in any five-match series – but Virat Kohli‘s India have given themselves a chance of becoming the second.
Root, understandably, would prefer not to contemplate that eventuality just yet.
That does not mean he is shying away from reality, however – and after England were bowled out for 317 with only 17 deliveries needed for India to take one remaining wicket on the final morning, he acknowledged all the damage was done two days earlier.
“You can nit-pick around other areas within the game, but ultimately that first innings for us was very poor,” he said, before turning to the flip side of Buttler and Stokes’ defiant stand of 169.
“One thing that’s come from this game is that partnership between Jos and Ben, and it’s a great example and lesson of how to go about things in Test cricket.
“It’s still a great ‘learner’ for us, to see two guys who are generally very attack-minded adapt to a situation – still probably in bowler-friendly conditions – and find a way to build a very strong partnership and put India’s bowlers under pressure.”
Further consolation for England lies, of course, in the series score after their wins at Edgbaston and Lord’s.
“We’re definitely in the driving seat, we have to keep remembering that,” added Root.
Jos Buttler has emphatically proved the doubters wrong, by showcasing a level of patience unseen in an England shirt for over three years. His century at Trent Bridge saw him leave ball 24% of the time; none of England's last 30 centuries have seen more leaves. #ENGvIND— The Cricket Prof. (@CricProf) August 21, 2018
“We have got a little bit of time now to go away and reflect on what has been a difficult week.
“But in England we are a very good side at bouncing back from a tough couple of days. I’m fully expecting the guys to come back to Southampton refreshed, ready to go and – we hope – take an opportunity to wrap the series up.”
Root wasted no time confirming his displeasure to his team-mates after their first-innings collapse to 161 all out.
“We sat down and spoke quite honestly about how we’re going to get this right,” he said. “It’s obviously not good enough.
“In this format, and for the group of players we’ve got, it’s well below par. It’s always at the forefront of our minds, making big first-innings scores – in Test match cricket, that’s crucial. We have to get that right very quickly.”
SUPPORT FOR COOK
Root, meanwhile, gave his full backing to out-of-form national record runscorer Alastair Cook. Asked if he wants Cook in his team for the rest of the series, he said: “Yes, 100 per cent.
“He’s a world-class performer – he’s proven that time and time again. Actually, I’d like you to write him off – because every time he’s written off, he comes back and scores a double-hundred.”
Jonny Bairstow suffered a “small fracture” to his left middle finger on day three of the third Test against India, the England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed.
England’s wicketkeeper immediately left the field after taking a painful blow when he struggled to gather a delivery from James Anderson before lunch.
He was sent for X-rays and in early afternoon an ECB update read: “He has sustained a small fracture to his left middle finger.”
Jos Buttler took the gloves, with Bairstow expected to bat in England’s second innings.
England‘s costly habit of collapsing in Test cricket has put them in evident danger of defeat against India at Trent Bridge.
The hosts were repeating a trend which has taken a curious hold when they lost all 10 wickets in a session on day two of the third Specsavers Test, to be bowled out for 161.
Despite an opening stand of 54, England conceded a lead of 168 as Hardik Pandya recorded only the second five-wicket haul of his first-class career.
After India then closed on 124 for two – a lead of 292 – Joe Root’s hosts appear set to see their series lead shorn to 2-1 with two to play.
England teams through the generations went almost 80 years without losing all their wickets in one session, between 1938 and October 2016, but this one has done so three times in 22 months.
Jos Buttler‘s counter-attacking 39 at least ensured England avoided the follow-on mark.
Assessing the state of play, however, he said: “It’s very disappointing. After a really good start to the day as well, picking up those early wickets and being 50 for none. We let that slip.
“It’s important we can recognise why it’s happened, and improve.”
The snag is that – despite some “very honest conversations” in the dressing-room – Buttler admits there is no “magic answer” to the problem.
Asked if England have yet worked out why they are so prone to collapse, he said: “Obviously not, if it keeps happening.
“Rightly, people say it’s been happening too often, which it has.
“Guys have got to improve. We know that as a side. To get to where we want to go, we need to eradicate these collapses.”
That appears to be slightly easier said than done at present.
“The key is trying not to make the same mistakes. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again, whether that’s as an individual or as a team,” he added.
Fantastic cricket, both in front and behind the wickets. Congratulations @hardikpandya7 and @RishabPant777 on your respective 5 wicket hauls! Let’s nip this in the bud now. #ENGvIND pic.twitter.com/lNDVRbQFPc— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) 19 August 2018
“There’s no real substitute for hard work.
“It comes down to how can you wrestle back the initiative, maybe with a counter-attacking style or someone trying to sit in and be a bit of a limpet for an hour and ride that session out.
“But obviously we weren’t good enough to do that today.”
England find themselves in a hole here, but Buttler added: “No-one’s going to give up, or throw the towel in.
“We’ve had a poor day today, very disappointing, but we’ll dust ourselves down and come back hard tomorrow.
“Everyone is striving to be the best they can, it’s not for a lack of trying. We’ve had a very bad day, but we will come back hard.”