Stokes wants England to be rock stars, says Root as India are left all shook up
Joe Root said England were “still heading into the unknown” after he led them into uncharted waters by serenely steering the team to the highest successful run-chase in their history to beat India by seven wickets at Edgbaston and draw the series.
The message from Root and England was clear: expect further exploration of the distant peaks of what was previously unimaginable.
Related: Root and Bairstow ease England to record run chase against India
England might never before have chased a target as high as 378 to win a Test – this was only the fifth time they have managed as much as 300 – but there was no sense in the aftermath this is the pinnacle of their ambitions. Ben Stokes said: “There was a bit of me that wanted India to get to 450 to see what we would do.” And Root’s matter-of-fact assessment was: “We knew whatever they set us we’re going to chase it down.”
The former captain’s unbeaten fourth-innings 142 was his fourth century of this five-game, 11-month series, as he and Jonny Bairstow – whose 114 was his fourth ton of an already sensational summer – cruised to a target of 378 on the fifth morning.
The night before the game started Stokes had watched the film Elvis and emerged inspired by how one man had changed the course of rock music, and pondering the possibility of bringing some of that supple-hipped swagger to his sport. Root’s crooked-pinkie celebration on reaching triple figures was a reference to that film.
“Ben’s wanted us to be entertainers. He mentioned trying to be rock stars on the field,” Root said. “It’s about trying to have fun and relish every opportunity you get to showcase what you’re about and put on a show for everyone. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to feel or look like a rock star, but for 10 seconds I might have done today.”
Root’s belief is that what England have already achieved this summer, winning four successive matches with run chases in excess of 250, has left teams around the world feeling all shook up. “I think once you’ve done it once, you know you can do it and you prove to yourself to you can. It does make it that little bit easier,” he said.
“Now we’ve done it a few times that breeds huge confidence. I imagine there will be sides around the world looking at the way that we’ve been playing and feeling a little bit intimidated by what we’re capable of doing.”
After cramming three Tests against New Zealand and this game against India into five weeks, England now have a six-week break before their next long-form outing, against South Africa at Lord’s. The challenge now will be to sustain this momentum beyond that break.
“I’m not naive. I know it doesn’t always happen like this and it might turn at some point,” Root said. “But I’ll keep trying to have fun, keep trying to enjoy it and keep trying to get better. A big part of it for me is accepting that there are going to be times when you fail. That’s the nature of batting and the nature of cricket. It’s very rare that you have five really good days in a row – but when you get your chance you’ve got to really make it count.”
India were left regretting their inability to sustain their own standards across the full five days of a Test, an issue that also contributed to their series defeat in South Africa when they last toured. “We played well in the first three days and couldn’t maintain that, and that’s why Test cricket is hard,” said Rahul Dravid, their head coach. “You’ve got to keep performing right through the five days. They did that better than us and they deserved to win.
“We need to be able to maintain that intensity, maintain that level of fitness and maintain that level of performance right through a Test match. We’ve been very good over the last few years in terms of being able to take wickets and win Test matches, but we haven’t been able to do it over the last few months.
“If you look at all the third innings the batting has probably not been up to scratch as well. In both areas we’ve started Tests well and we haven’t been able to finish well. We have to get better at that.”