Joe Root insists his England team cannot be faulted for effort despite losing the Ashes at the earliest opportunity this winter.
England’s attempted Perth rearguard amounted to 218 all out and defeat by an innings and 41 runs after Australia had racked up 662 for nine declared – their highest Ashes total on home soil – on the way to a series-sealing 3-0 scoreline.
While Root’s opposite number, Steve Smith, was holding back tears of joy in the home dressing room, and England coach Trevor Bayliss found himself defending his position, the Yorkshireman spoke of “bitter disappointment” but unsurprisingly refused to play the blame game with any of his players.
His predecessor Alastair Cook and fellow Ashes veteran Stuart Broad are among those who have failed to live up to their billing over the past month. But Root emphasised the graft put in by one and all, and even wondered aloud whether he himself has perhaps been trying too hard for his own good.
“It’s bitterly disappointing,” he said.
“But they tried absolutely everything. It wasn’t for the lack of effort. We went through every plan – different fields, bowling straight, hanging it wide, every now and again a bit of bumper warfare. It felt like we didn’t leave anything to chance.”
Root was left bemoaning the same factors here in Perth as in Brisbane and Adelaide – that England matched Australia, even out-performed them at times, but just not for long enough.
“I don’t think these three games are a fair reflection of how we’ve played and what we’re capable of,” he added. “I think we need to do ourselves and the supporters back home justice.
“Probably the biggest thing that has been to my detriment is trying too hard. I’ve been desperate to win this series.”
Asked about the meagre contributions of old hands like Cook and Broad, Root spelled out that he and Bayliss retain faith in players with world-class records.
“It is very important, for me and Trevor, that we don’t panic or make hasty decisions,” he said. “One of the most frustrating things is that we haven’t been blown away or completely outplayed. We have put up some really good performances in all three matches – simple as that, really – just not for long enough. There have been periods when we have matched and outplayed Australia.
“We have got a bit of time now to get right for Melbourne and make sure our minds are fully on putting in a really strong performance, and showing the character we have.”
Asked about the security of his position as coach, Bayliss defended it on the basis of favourable performances on his watch overall and deferred any decision about his future to people “above my pay grade”. The Australian did concede, however, after England’s seventh successive Test defeat away from home that improvement is overdue on their travels.
“We’ve just got to get better… in foreign conditions,” he said.
“We’ve played extremely well during the summer, but in conditions that don’t necessarily suit us.”
Bayliss’ former New South Wales protege Smith was by contrast struggling to contain his elation and pride at leading his country to a famous home win. “I was crying in the sheds a bit a minute ago,” he said.
“Everything just came out. The boys have been magnificent. It really is what dreams are made of as an Ashes captain to be up 3-0”