Joe Root, the England captain, said the hard-fought fourth Test win against India in Southampton, which decided the series 3-1 in favour of England with one Test to go, was the best one yet.
“It’s definitely been the most enjoyable,” said Root after the 60-run win on Sunday, September 2. “I feel like I’ve had quite a big input, felt very much in control of things – and I’ve got a real clear vision of how I see us improving long-term as a group. It’s a really exciting time for me and for this team.”
In keeping with the tempo of much of the series, both teams kept at it, with wins for either looking likely at different points. Having set India a target of 245, the hosts got the early breakthroughs to reduce them to 22-3. A century stand between Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli threatened to swing things India’s way, before Moeen Ali got the vital wicket of Kohli.
“When I was batting, I thought 190 would be a good score but the fact we got beyond 230-240 was a fantastic effort. It proved to be a difficult chase. I was fairly confident that if we bowled to our potential we’d have enough in the bank to get across the line,” said Root.
“We always knew there would be a partnership at some stage and the biggest challenge for us was if we could stay calm and collected and trust that if we stuck to what we wanted to do for long periods, the wicket would do the rest for us.
“I thought as a group we performed exceptionally well. It’s testament to the skill level and attitude of the team. It was really pleasing that under that pressure, we managed to come good and get across the line.”
Root’s ‘vision’ might be timely for the team. While there have been stellar individual performances and the team has been relentless in pushing for a win, top-order batting and catching remain areas of concern.
The captain insisted the conditions and the “high-class” seam attack made life difficult for the batsmen. Root himself played at No.4 in the second innings, but was non-committal about whether there would be a repeat of that.
“I’ve always favoured No.4, it’s always been the place where I feel I get the best out of myself,” he said. “If you look at this game, the decision was made purely on the situation of the game the night before. That second innings was all about scoring runs, it didn’t matter how we did it.”
England’s star was Ali, who made a triumphant return to the playing XI, picking up nine for the match and making crucial first-innings runs.
“He’s been brilliant,” Root said of the all-rounder. “Sometimes, having some time away from the game can be a really good thing. He’s obviously performed well for his county at Worcestershire … Couldn’t be more pleased for him. He’s someone who’s a big part of the dressing room and it’s always really nice when he goes out and performs. He’s such a big part of this team and I think that’s going to be the case going forward.”