Joe Root demands improvement from England
England’s off-colour Test tourists have heard some home truths from their captain.
Joe Root has left his England team in no doubt that a vast and urgent improvement is needed in the final Test of their arduous winter.
In a first assignment since their 4-0 Ashes drubbing, England again fell flat with an innings defeat against New Zealand in Auckland.
Root, who voiced his steadfast support for Trevor Bayliss as the “right man” to continue as England coach, spelled out his and his team-mates responsibilities to reach a much higher standard.
They will have that opportunity when the second and final Test starts in Christchurch on Friday.
Victory would square the series and prevent England’s longest winter schedule for 55 years ending on another downer.
Root began his bid to arrest the slide by following England’s three-hour training session by convening a lengthy meeting to discuss the task ahead with his bowling attack.
Afterwards, he said: “We hope we can put right what was a really bad week. The (two days of) rain (in Auckland) made it look a lot better than it was. We know we were well off the mark.
“It’s about making sure we’re far better than we have been so far on this tour.”
Asked about the security of Bayliss’ role, Root made clear his faith in the coach.
“We as players have a responsibility to put things right,” he said. “He’s been very good at trying to take pressure off us and allowing us to try and perform at our best – even when it has got tough.
“He’s got some brilliant ideas and he’s a very talented coach, and the right man to take us forward to the end of his tenure.”
After being bowled out for just 58 in their first innings en route to a landslide defeat at Eden Park, selection changes are sure to be on the agenda.
We know we were well off the mark Joe Root
Moeen Ali and Craig Overton are perhaps the most likely to make way to accommodate the possible return of fit-again seamer Mark Wood or a debut for batsman Liam Livingstone.
Root said: “I’d never make changes just to be seen to be doing something. I always want to be picking the side I think can win the game in the given conditions.
“If it is the case that we should make changes then that’s what we’ll do.”
Ben Stokes’ fitness to bowl – as he continues to suffer with a stiff back – remains a significant complication, and Root knows he cannot afford to take chances with his game-changing all-rounder.
“It’s a tricky one, because we don’t want to put too much through it too early with such a big summer coming up,” he said.
“It’s important we err on the side of caution and make sure we don’t lose him for a long period of time.
“I hope we’ll get some overs out of him (here), but I don’t think we’ll be seeing him run in for 30 overs a day.”
As for Moeen, the priority often appears to be management of mind rather than body.
“It has been a struggle for Mo, but he’s a very talented lad who has done some great things in the not too distant past,” said Root.
“He had a fantastic summer, and his challenge will be to try to find the consistency he had (then).
“He’s definitely got the game to turn things round, but it’s making sure he keeps believing in all the good stuff he’s done in the past and trusting his game.
“I hope sooner rather than later he will get that right.”