Joe Root hails Ashes series draw, urging England on to better things
Joe Root claimed to have found the blueprint for his Test side and hailed the summer as a success after England followed up the World Cup triumph in July by denying Australia an outright Ashes win.
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A 135-run victory by England at the Oval ensured a 2-2 scoreline and the first drawn series between the two sides since 1972. It made the ticker‑tape celebrations for Tim Paine’s tourists at the end more palatable for the exhausted hosts.
Australia may have retained the urn at Old Trafford but Root, who once again restated his desire to remain as captain and lead the next tour to Australia in two years’ time, is encouraged by the response as the national team’s focus now returns to Test cricket.
Root said: “The scoreline looks a hell of a lot better than 3-1 and is probably a fair result. It has been a long gruelling summer. For English cricket it is a success. There has been some a phenomenal cricket. The World Cup was incredible and to be backed up by such an evenly matched Ashes – what a summer of cricket it has been.
“[This win] is a blueprint of how we want to go about playing. We can get better and there are areas we want to strengthen and improve on but guys have stepped up under pressure and that is really pleasing. Hopefully that is a starting point.
“It looks like we’re starting to get to grips with Test cricket after a long period of one-day cricket. In the next two and half years we have to really push and prepare for that tour of Australia. That will be a huge focus for me and for English cricket.”
Matthew Wade had frustrated England on the fourth day with 117 from 166 balls as Australia chased a fanciful 399 to win, emerging unscathed from a gripping eight-over duel with a fired‑up Jofra Archer after tea that saw the fast bowler hit 95.6mph.
But when Root had the left-hander stumped just after 6pm, and then held catches from Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood off consecutive balls in the following over from Jack Leach, Australia were all out for 263 and denied a first series win in England since 2001.
Archer was named player of the match after his second six-wicket haul in the first innings and, following 22 victims in his first four Tests, the 24-year-old represents one of the reasons Root is optimistic about the future. “When I first faced him in nets with a red ball, it was clear he was going to be very special,” Root said.
“We have got to be careful about expecting too much though. He is a young guy and I am still learning how to get best out of him as captain.”
Archer declared himself simply happy to see the back of Steve Smith, who was the unsurprising recipient of the Compton–Miller medal for player of the series. The right-hander made 774 runs in just seven innings – his first Test outing after a 12-month suspension – and some 333 more than the next best batsman in England’s Ben Stokes.
Stokes, hero of the World Cup final in July and then miracle man in Leeds with the unbeaten 135 that chased down a record 359 on the final day, said: “I’ll look back on Headingley in a few years’ time with fond memories probably but I’d swap it for winning for the Ashes still.”
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As well as some standout work from Rory Burns at the top of the order, Stuart Broad stepped up in the absence of the injured Jimmy Anderson with 23 wickets and gave David Warner a personal nightmare along the way. It was Broad’s best Ashes haul and he became the first England bowler to claim 20 or more in four series against Australia. Trevor Bayliss, the England head coach who steps down after five summers in charge, tipped the 33‑year‑old to play on for some time yet.
Bayliss, who returns to coaching in the Indian Premier League after securing his own place in English cricket history, said only the Australia job – one he does not expect to come up – would tempt him back into international cricket.