Joe Root was delighted with the character shown by his side to bounce back and see off Pakistan by an innings and 55 runs in the Headingley Test.
The talk following the Lord’s loss – England were soundly beaten by nine wickets – between critics and players are ongoing, with James Anderson and Stuart Broad hitting back at Michael Vaughan’s suggestion that one of them should be dropped.
The two senior pacemen, with points to prove, came good at Headingley, returning a combined 11 wickets across two innings. Root said they set the tone for the win.
“They didn’t let me down,” he said. “They set the tone, and they were fantastic. And they were very well backed up. As a group, we were really good. We were disciplined with the bat, there was really good balance between attack and defence, and it was really pleasing for me.
“We spoke as a group after last week’s game. Spoke about character and a number of things. But we wanted to make sure we played with pride and enjoyment. We learned very quickly, adapted very well to the conditions. We didn’t win the toss, but we bowled well, a few guys stood up with points to prove and did very well.”
The highlights from the series-levelling victory were the performances of Jos Buttler and Dominic Bess. Buttler took the unorthodox route back to the Test side, via the IPL, and Root said, at times on the third morning, he wanted to sit back with a cup of coffee and watch the No.7 batsman bat.
“Jos is very street-smart in terms of cricket. He’s played a lot of international cricket, he’s got huge amounts of experience, and he reads the game really well,” said Root. “It looks like he’s got his head around that role at No.7, and hopefully, that’s something long-term that can benefit this side.
“You saw a glimpse of what he could potentially do at the back-end of this knock. That’s why he’s in the side, to try and take games away from the opposition, just as he did. It would have been nice to get another cup of coffee in, sit and watch for another hour, but that was the nature of the surface. I thought the 80-odd he got was worth a 120.”
As for Bess, he followed up his 49 as nightwatchman with a blinder of a catch on the third morning, and his first three wickets in Test cricket. He ended with figures of 3-33 in 11 overs.
Root revealed that the 20-year-old had been desperate to get in as nightwatchman. “One thing we knew we were going to get from Dom was that character,” said the England captain. “I’ve said a couple of times already tonight, he was padded up for 45 minutes, desperate to get in as nightwatchman because he wanted to be involved in the game.
“He gets warm after three of four balls bowled in an innings, because he wants to bowl, wants to get in the game. That’s the sort of player he is. There’s no surprise for me he gets the results you see this week.”
The next assignment for the Test side is the five-match blockbuster series against India, and while Root admitted there was a long way to go yet, he said the performance at Headingley provided the side a massive fillip.
“We had a point to prove as a side, we know there’s a long way to go, but we’ve plenty of time to achieve that,” he said. “It’s about making sure we take it forward. We were below par at Lord’s. We were low on confidence, to be brutally honest, from a tough winter. But we showed the character within the group, showed we were the better side.”