There was still a noticeable spring in Joe Root‘s step on the eve of the second Test at Lord’s, undoubtedly due to the lingering warm glow of that thrilling victory at Edgbaston. Despite twice surrendering a strong position and allowing India to scrap their way back into the contest, England have the early advantage in this series and Root was quick to deflect credit from his own captaincy to the performance of his team.
“We obviously did some stuff well, but ultimately, regardless of what you do as captain your players have to perform and I thought they were exceptional,” said Root. “It’s not for me to take the credit for their hard work. Under pressure we stayed calm, we knew what lengths to bowl and stuck to that, it would have been easy for us to chase the game on that last morning but we didn’t, we knew if we held to our plans and stayed calm we would create enough chances.
“It’s nice to know our thinking is right and we’re able to follow through on that when it really matters. Obviously, for me to come as captain and win a close game fills me with confidence going into the rest of the series against the No.1 side in the world but it’s about backing it up now. Looking for consistency in back-to-back games and this is an opportunity to do that.”
Root’s talk of consistency points to England’s pendulum-swinging results over the past few summers, when all too often a resounding victory has been followed by abject defeat, or vice versa. The Edgbaston Test was the closest opening match of a home series since the first match of the 2013 Ashes at Trent Bridge and Root hopes the intensity of the victory will herald a sustained improvement in form.
“It fills you with masses of confidence,” said Root. “One of the most exciting things about last week is that we weren’t at our best, certainly there are areas we can improve, but we found a way to win under pressure, and wrestle momentum back in our favour. That’s a sign of some strong characters in our dressing room. And having had some indifferent results in the recent past, to pull off a win like that is a really good sign for us moving forward. If we can make small improvements in certain areas, and add that to where we were good last week, we will see some improvements last week.”
One area England will desperately hope to improve is their slip catching. In the first Test Virat Kohli was dropped twice by Dawid Malan at second slip, Hardik Pandya was put down by Alastair Cook at first and Malan was also unable to take the catch to dismiss Murali Vijay, although he did successfully complete three catches over the course of the match, including a particularly sharp take to dismiss Dinesh Karthik in the first over of the fourth morning.
During the match, James Anderson suggested England’s problems in the slip cordon may be due to changing personnel and Malan’s dropping in favour of Ollie Pope means yet another reshuffle. In the lead up to the second Test, Cook, Jos Buttler and Keaton Jennings have filled the first, second and third places respectively, despite some speculation that Root might join the cordon.
“It’s a crucial part of Test cricket, especially India being such a good side you have to take those chances,” said Root. “We are looking for continuity in that department, and we feel they are the best three guys to field in the cordon. Hopefully that can be settled and stay the same for a long period of time.
“I did [think about fielding slip]. I felt that is a very solid cordon and gives me an opportunity to be at mid-off, speak to the bowlers, have real clarity about what we are trying to do as a team on the field. And have a real gauge of managing the game with the guys, not telling them what to do but having clarity with how we want to approach things.”
Lord’s may be the Home of Cricket but it has proved to be an unhappy dwelling for England against Asian teams in recent years. England haven’t won against a team from the subcontinent in their past five attempts at Lord’s, losing twice to Pakistan, once to India and playing out two draws against Sri Lanka. Despite a deceptive green tinge, the pitch here has generally been flat in recent times and ahead of this match the ground staff have been working against the elements to keep the moisture levels up in the hottest, driest conditions in decades, a situation that may favour another Asian touring side.
“Maybe… every time you turn up here the surfaces can be quite different,” said Root. “At the start of the summer we were very below par and it would be easy to look too far into that, but against South Africa there was quite a lot of spin and against India previously spin came into it a lot in the second innings. That might play a big factor. We’ll have to wait to see what the surface looks like tomorrow morning but ultimately on the last couple of occasions, whoever has played well in the first innings has managed to contain that threat through the rest of the game.”