Joe Root says batting first in Brisbane was the right decision and shoulders blame for Jack Leach’s eye-watering figures; Root says England “not far away” from Australia despite nine-wicket defeat at The Gabba; second Test in Adelaide, a day-nighter starts on December 16
Last Updated: 11/12/21 6:13am
Joe Root said England cannot “feel sorry for themselves” and “are not far away from Australia” as he assessed their nine-wicket hammering in the Ashes opener and defended his decision to bat first and leave out senior seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
England lost their final eight wickets for just 77 runs on the fourth morning in Brisbane – including Root for 89 and Dawid Malan for 82 – to tumble to 297 all out, before Australia knocked off their tiny target of 20 in 5.1 overs.
The tourists remain winless at The Gabba since 1986 and, although they fought back on day three through Root and Malan’s century stand, their hopes in this game took a massive hit on day one when they were rolled for 147 on a green-tinged surface after Root elected to bat.
Australia then piled on 425 in their first innings against a bowling attack missing Anderson and Broad – who have a combined 1,156 Test wickets – with left-arm spinner Jack Leach thumped for 1-102 from 13 overs.
Speaking to BT Sport, Root said: “We’re a team that’s always responded well to situations like this in the recent past. We’re not scared of a challenge.
“We’re not scared of fronting up to a difficult result and we’ll just have to make sure that we do exactly that again on this occasion.
“We know where we need to get better but I do think the way that we responded in that second innings, showing character and fight, which we will need throughout this series.
“With these five-match series, it’s really important that we don’t feel too sorry for ourselves off the back of this.
“We’ve got to remember that there’s a huge amount of cricket to play and we should relish that challenge, relish that opportunity to go out there and get one back on the board.”
On opting to bat, Root said: “I look back on the toss and I think it was the right decision. Being 29-4 makes it look like that’s not the case and credit to Australia to exploit those conditions a little bit.
“But if we get some sort of score on the board, with how that wicket started to behave on day four, you’re looking at a very different contest.”
Leach bagged an unwanted piece of history with the 73 balls it took for Australia to smash his bowling for 100 runs a new Ashes record, beating the 86-ball bowling hundred Brett Lee suffered against England at Edgbaston in 2005.
However, Root has still backed Leach to have a big impact on the series, with the skipper taking the blame for the bowler’s harrowing numbers.
Root added on BT Sport: “If anything, that probably falls on me for probably giving him too aggressive fields, too early – not letting him settle in and giving him a bit more of a chance early on.
“Jack’s a fine spinner. He’s shown over the 20-odd Test matches that he’s played what an instrumental part he can play within this team and I’m sure he’ll play a big part in this series.
“It’s easy to look back in hindsight [and say Anderson and Broad should have played]. One thing I will say is that we wanted variation in our attack.
“We wanted to be able to change the pace of the game and move through different gears throughout the innings.
“If you look at Jimmy’s position coming into the game, it was a risk to play him. Anderson being available for as many Tests as possible is really important to us.”
Anderson and Broad’s fellow seamers Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson and Chris Woakes were three of the bright spots the tourists, sharing eight wickets in Australia’s first innings.
Root said: “We created so many chances with the ball – I thought we were excellent.
“Our seamers were brilliant. Wood in particular, Robinson as well and they were backed up by the other guys. They beat the bat a huge amount of times and banged out the areas that you want to on this kind of wicket
“We created a lot of chances but we’ve just got to take them. We want to be better in the field. If we did that the game could have looked very different:
“We could have been looking at – even with the way that we played on day four – being 150 runs ahead and it’s a very different context of the game then.”