England fell flat at Trent Bridge last week when they were trounced by 340 runs, in Root’s second match as captain – attracting strong and high-profile criticism, including from Vaughan, who accused them of failing to “respect” Test cricket.
The Investec series is therefore level at 1-1 with two to play going into this famous venue’s 100th Test, and Root is well aware England need to raise their game.
They will be doing so with at least two debutants, and possibly a third, after Root confirmed Toby Roland-Jones is set to replace the injured Mark Wood, Tom Westley previously announced at number three following Gary Ballance’s broken finger and Dawid Malan in the wings too if England opt for an extra batsman over a second spinner.
As for Vaughan, Root has made clear there are no hard feelings between himself and the former England captain and fellow ex-Sheffield Collegiate graduate.
When first told of Vaughan’s critique at the captain’s post-match press conference in Nottingham, Root was aghast at the remarks and described them as “unfair”. On the eve of the third Test, nine days later, he said: “It’s his job to be opinionated and give his view on what he sees. No one agrees on everything all the time. I understand that, and I’m sure he understands that as well.”
Root fully expects England will prove to one and all this week how much pride they take in their own standards.
“The guys do really care – they are desperate to win and perform well in an England shirt,” he said. “They don’t want to let anyone down. It’s a great opportunity this week for us to show what it means to play for England.”
Root is not seeking to dodge fair criticism either of the performance which consigned England to their seventh defeat in their last ten Tests.
“We obviously weren’t good enough – there’s no point hiding behind it or making excuses – but the most important thing is the attitude we show this week to bounce back strong. Effort has never been an issue with the guys, it’s just making sure we recognise the key periods and we grab them and take the game forward.
“We know how much talent and ability is in the dressing room. We need to read those situations quicker, adapt and, when we do get a chance, take it. It’s important that we remain true to each other.”
However many debutants are needed at the Oval, Root insists they will enter a cohesive environment. He said: “We’ve a settled dressing room that is desperate to get better, and knows we’re a better side than we showed last week.
“All the lads have gone away and had a think themselves, and everyone seems very focused about how they want to go about this week, which is really important.”
England do not appear to know yet whether to give Malan the nod for his maiden Test and field three debutants for the first time since 2014, or stick with Liam Dawson to bat at No 8 and provide an extra spin option.
“It’s important to look at the surface and decide what’s going to be the best side to play South Africa in those conditions,” added Root.
“So we’ll turn up tomorrow, take a look at the wicket and make a decision.”
One man who will not be involved is Wood, whose heel niggle which affected his pace at Trent Bridge has resurfaced despite favourable scans between Tests. Root confirmed the fast bowler’s absence and spelled out why Roland-Jones can be an effective deputy.
“Woody is not 100 per cent fit, so he’s going to miss out this week and Toby is going to come in and make his debut,” he said.
“Toby has looked really good in the lead-up to the other games.
“He’s had a fine couple of years. He’s been banging the door down.
“I’m really excited for him and I’m sure he’ll be desperate to show everyone what he can do with a red ball for England.”