Joe Root insists England proved their mettle even in defeat against New Zealand but face more “soul-searching” as they try to hit back from 1-0 down in the second and final Test.
England had a mountain to climb after collapsing to an embarrassing 58 all out at the very start of New Zealand’s inaugural day-night Test at Eden Park.
Two days of rain aided their survival cause – but eventually, even after four second-innings half-centuries, they were bowled out for 320 in the final session to lose for the 10th time in 12 away Tests by an innings and 49 runs.
It was a difficult task for the captain to put much gloss on another hugely disappointing performance, but he emphasised that his rallying call was answered.
Root said: “I think one thing about today was that I asked the guys at the start ‘Show everyone how much it means to you to play for England, and represent your country’.
“I thought we got that from the guys.
“We were always fighting our way back into the game. But the character the guys showed today, I think, was a step forward and we simply need to be better when we get to Christchurch.”
There, England may yet be without Ben Stokes – who returned for his first Test in six months, after his enforced Ashes absence, as a specialist batsman only because of his stiff back. The injury resurfaced while Stokes was making a defiant top-score of 66 and Root warns the all-rounder’s participation cannot be taken for granted on Friday.
Root said: “With Ben, it’s day-to-day with his back and making sure he’s fit to play.
“That assessment will continue throughout this week and if he’s not fit to play he won’t play.”
Both Stokes and Root followed first-innings ducks – England made five – with 50s at their second attempt.
“In the first innings, we didn’t adapt quickly enough to the situation, the conditions,” added the Yorkshireman.
“That is very disappointing, because we’re used to the ball seaming around, used to it swinging, and at no stage did anyone get themselves in and we didn’t create any partnerships.
“So it was important we did show character today and very important this week leading into the [second] Test match we do some soul-searching and get things right.”
Whether there may be selection changes is a moot point which Root is not yet about to clarify.
“There’s a lot of emotion knocking around now and it’s still very raw,” he said.
“It’s very important we have some rational thinking and we sit down and make sure we go into that Test match with the XI we think is going to win the game,” added Root.
“We’re going to have to make sure that, when we get that opportunity, someone stands up – or a couple of guys do – and take it on themselves to put in those match-winning performances, which we do quite frequently in our own conditions.”
New Zealand are a match for anyone on their home soil and their captain Kane Williamson, who scored a century in New Zealand’s innings, was proud of a performance which, unlike on England’s last tour at this venue five years ago, came to fruition with a big margin of victory rather than a near miss.
Asked if he always believed his team would finish the job this time, Williamson said: “Yes, we were confident.
“But we knew it would be hard work and it was a lot of hard work.
“We know this England side is very talented and we had to be prepared to play the long game to get the rewards.”