Joe Root said the planning for England’s next Ashes tour to Australia begins right away, after dropping Jason Roy for Thursday’s fifth Test and telling others they are playing for their futures. A shoulder injury to Ben Stokes, who plays as a specialist batsman, has given England an easy out on the misfiring Roy, with Sam Curran recalled as the team’s all-rounder and Chris Woakes reclaiming the third seamer spot he lost to Craig Overton.
A 2-2 series draw is the best England can achieve but Root wants his players to find personal motivation to end this World Cup-winning summer on a high and give Trevor Bayliss, their much-loved but departing head coach, a good send-off.
“We are bitterly disappointed not to win the Ashes back,” Root said. “To win the first [men’s] 50-over World Cup is a huge achievement for English cricket. It should be seen as a successful year. But we’ve got a chance to level this series and make it slightly better than it looks now.”
Despite diminishing returns with the bat leading to questions over the burden of captaincy, Root’s position does not appear under threat. Tim Paine, the Australia captain, said he could not understand the scrutiny of Root, whom he called a fantastic cricketer, even if his Australia side are aiming to take the series 3-1 and to compound the home side’s problems.
Root said: “I have not performed how I would have liked but that is part and parcel of Test cricket. I have thrown everything into it and sometimes you get outplayed, sometimes you come across someone [Steve Smith] who is in the form of his life.
“In terms of my own captaincy I know the direction I want to take this team moving forward and it is about starting that now and not after this series. It is important we win this game and have a really strong winter and move forward as a group.
“In terms of personnel things might change – as they have done for a while – but we have to focus on the core group of players that can lead this team forward, home and away, then build from that. Build towards winning in Australia and use the next two years to focus on putting in a winning tour Down Under. That’s a real incentive for everyone: to be part of something special down there.”
Root’s desire to build around a core of players is why Jonny Bairstow, moved to No 5 below Stokes but still keeping wicket, and Jos Buttler, at No 6, have another chance to atone for low-key campaigns before the squad for the two November Tests in New Zealand is picked at the end of the month.
“You are playing for your country; that’s the fundamentals of it. However you motivate yourself – whether it’s getting yourself on a winter tour, trying to get a hundred or a five-fer – it’s really important to harness that this week.”
Players such as Ollie Pope, Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley have been held back from Australia’s impressive attack here but will enter the thoughts of the national selector, Ed Smith. The replacement for Bayliss, who may have his own ideas, is yet to be sourced, too. Root was full of praise for Bayliss, whom he described as having rejuvenated English white-ball cricket and being a massive influence who will be sorely missed.
Asked if a more hands-on coach was needed to help him, Root said: “Let’s have this discussion further down the line. We need to celebrate what Trevor has done throughout his tenure and as players we need to send him off with a real big bang.”
Roy has been told he can still have a Test future by Root but the path back in is not obvious. The right-hander, so central to the World Cup win, struggled in Test cricket. He is not expected to play for Surrey again this season and rest instead.
The 29-year-old will be in demand at the next Indian Premier League auction and with the tournament crossing over the start of the next county summer, he faces a tricky decision over his career ambitions.