MANCHESTER, Sept 8 (Reuters) - England captain Joe Root praised his team for their battling spirit despite Sunday’s fourth test defeat to Australia ensuring the tourists retain the Ashes.
Root’s side went into the final day looking to save a draw, with eight wickets remaining, and managed to take the game into the final hour.
It was not another Headingley ‘miracle’ comeback in the manner of the previous test, but instead a genuine effort appreciated by the Old Trafford crowd, who cheered every dot ball.
“As before, we always believe and we fight right to the end. Another great test match, but it’s bitterly disappointing,” said Root.
“From today’s point of view, I am really proud. You learn a lot about your team. Everyone stood up and played bravely.”
Australia lead the five test series 2-1 heading into Thursday’s final test at The Oval as they look to win the series on English soil for the first time since 2001.
“We have seen some wonderful test cricket and I expect the same at The Oval. We want to level the series. We have to pick ourselves up and turn up at The Oval,” said Root.
He maintained there was no question mark over his team’s commitment for the final test.
“You turn up to an Ashes series you put everything you can into it. You leave everything out on the field. Everyone has done that,” he said.
“At times we have not been at our absolute best. We have played a very good side that has performed well in these conditions.
“Look at the test matches and there have been times when one guy has made a difference and that has probably cost us the urn this time around.”
That ‘one guy’ making the difference was undoubtedly Australia batsman Steve Smith, who made 211 and 82 in the match as he continued his prolific series where he has now made 671 runs at an average of 134.2 with three centuries and two half-centuries.
“Every batter, bar Steve Smith, has been under pressure. It’s been one of those summers where batting has been hard,” said Root.
“Steve Smith has been hard work to get out. Ultimately, he was the difference this Test match.”
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Andrew Both