County environment is not readying players well enough for Test cricket: Root

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28 Dec 2021 | 03:17 AM
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County environment is not readying players well enough for Test cricket: Root

England were trailing by only 82 runs but were bundled out for just 68 in the second innings

England had nowhere to run as they were blown away by Australia in the first session of day three of the third Ashes Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. England captain Joe Root didn’t shy away from accepting the fact that Australia were the superior side as England lost the game by an innings and 14 runs, allowing Pat Cummins and Co. to retain the Ashes.

"We've got to do things for longer. There have been small pockets, but nowhere near long enough. We know the areas we need to improve on. We have to stay strong and look at the next two games to take something from the tour," said Root, who ended the calendar year with the third-most Test runs in history.

England were only trailing by 82 runs in the second innings but were bundled out for mere 68. It followed a 275-run thrashing in Adelaide and a nine-wicket thumping in Brisbane, with two Tests in Sydney and Hobart left for England to save face.

"We have to make sure when we get our opportunities to get ahead we take them," said Root, adding that England should have scored 250-plus in their first innings rather than slump to 185 all out.

"If we had we would have been very much in the game and we would have been looking at a very different game. But last night was an outstanding spell of bowling from their attack and you just have to find a way to get through it. Sometimes it has to just be an hour's hard grind."

A hostile spell from Australia in the last hour on Monday effectively won them the match, reducing England to 31 for four, still 51 runs behind. "We knew going into today we were more than capable of getting ourselves a score and it's really disappointing that we didn't manage to do that.

"We have to front up, make sure we stay focused, looking to improve all areas of our game individually and collectively, and we have to have a really strong inner belief to be able to come back. We need to put some pride back. We're really disappointed to be 3-0 down with two Test matches to go. We have to try and make sure we come away from this tour with a couple of wins."

Root also admitted that the county cricket is not producing batters who can straightaway perform in these challenging conditions. "I'd say that the best 18 players from the county game are definitely on this tour. There are some very talented players within this squad and we have to find ways of upskilling ourselves and each other, and managing pressure points within the game better.

"Unfortunately, where the game is at in our country right now, the only place you can really learn that is in the hardest environment. For what is quite a young batting group, they're having to learn out here. The environment that they're coming from, it's not readying them well enough for Test cricket.

"It's a very difficult place, with everything that surrounds Test matches and the different conditions and environments. If you're not ready going into it, it makes it very difficult to improve in that environment."

Despite admitting they had been "completely outplayed" so far, Root did take heart from their Jimmy Anderson-led bowling effort that restricted Australia to 267 in their first innings, which he called their best day of the series so far.   

"They have definitely outplayed us in the three games, we have not been good enough. I also think that the way we bowled yesterday was excellent as well. I'm really disappointed for the bowlers because they kept us in the game, we just have to keep looking to get better."

England lost the Ashes but Root had an outstanding year with the bat. His dismissal on day three of the third Test in Melbourne for 28 left him with 1,708 runs for the year, at an average of 61.00, behind only Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf (1,788 in 2006) and West Indian legend Viv Richards (1,710 in 1976).

He moved past the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar to chalk up 1,600 runs at the second Test in Adelaide, and then edged South Africa's Graeme Smith (1,656 in 2008) in Melbourne. Root, however, had far more innings to compile his total -- 29 to the 19 of both Yousuf and Richards.

"I obviously feel like I'm playing really nicely at the minute but I would obviously swap it all for Test match wins. Any player will tell you that there's no better feeling in cricket than winning a Test match. It's great that I feel like my game is improving and evolving still as a player, even having played quite a lot of cricket, and I'm desperate to keep doing that."

But the Yorkshireman is still searching for a first Ashes hundred in Australia. "I think I probably wanted it too much, I was too desperate and it had probably a negative impact on the way I played, I put too much pressure on myself."

Meanwhile, England head coach Chris Silverwood backed the decision of bringing in Zak Crawley, Jonny Bairstow, Jack Leach and Mark Wood in place of Rory Burns, Ollie Pope, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes. "We do know who are our best 11 players are, but we had to make changes after the first two games. We knew we had good people to come in," he told BT Sport.

Silverwood wants to give the young players more time to settle in, and also heaped heavy praise on Scott Boland and Co. Playing his first Test, Bolland claimed 6/7 in the second innings and completely dismantled England. "We have some world-class players and some youngsters who are learning on the job constantly.

"We have to try and give them some confidence. We know they have the ability and we do back them. We have to give them the opportunity to show what they can do in the last two Tests.

"I have to give credit to the Australia attack [especially] Scott Boland for bowling as well as he did in that second innings. Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc are also world-class. That said, we have to find a way of competing, find a way of pushing back and scoring runs against them.

"That is certainly something we will be reflecting on in the dressing room as we want to take something away from this series and compete in the last two Test matches."

(With inputs from AFP)

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