Sheffield’s England captain Joe Root insists he will not be scarred by a declaration that backfired after the West Indies sealed a tremendous five-wicket victory in the second Test at Headingley.
The Windies, led by a historic 118 not out from Shai Hope and 95 from opener Kraigg Brathwaite, hunted down 322 to record their fourth-highest run chase of all time, one which secured their first Test win on these shores for 17 years.
Root had opted to end England’s innings with two wickets in hand on the fourth evening in an effort to make inroads into the Windies batting line-up but ultimately his decision allowed the tourists a route back into the contest.
When asked whether the experience might incline him to err on the side of caution in future, Root said: “I don’t think it will.
“The declaration might not have been timed right but I thought it was a positive thing to do, we’re a side that want to go out there and win Test matches. We got ourselves in a position where we could do that and credit to the West Indies, they played really well, they made it difficult for us to get on top of them. They’re a side that want to prove a point, they’ve got young players that haven’t got a great amount of experience but have got good skill level.
“If you’re not on it and you don’t play to your best then they have the ability to turn you over and that’s what they did.”
Dropped catches were a constant feature throughout the Test and while the Windies were widely pilloried for failing to take their chances, England were just as culpable at times and Alastair Cook grassing Brathwaite on four had a decisive impact.
Brathwaite went on to make a further 91 runs and once again dovetailed superbly with Hope in a 144-run stand.
Root said: “You’ve got to take your chances in Test cricket. When you get to this level if you give guys opportunities they generally go on and hurt you.
“It’s been a strange Test match, there’s been so many catches go down, it’s hard to put your finger on it.
“We have to be better, we know that taking early wickets and taking opportunities to put sides under pressure is a massive part in winning Test matches. We weren’t good enough to do that this week.”
Having arrived at Headingley on the back of a thumping innings-and-209-run win at Edgbaston, England were largely on the back foot in Leeds, where they surrendered a 169-run first-innings lead.
While Root was encouraged by the fightback shown, he acknowledged their standards slipped with bat and ball in the opening couple of days.
He added: “The first two days we weren’t as good as we can be. But I think the most pleasing thing for me is the way we fought back into the game. Previously when we’ve been behind the eight-ball we’ve struggled to do that.”
The Windies, meanwhile, will head to Lord’s next week for the Investec series decider, emboldened by the manner in which they silenced their critics.
Following their horror show in Birmingham, former Windies great Curtly Ambrose labelled the current crop “pathetic”, so this was a particularly satisfying triumph for Jason Holder.
He said: “It feels really good, especially after the game in Edgbaston, it was a tough loss.
“A lot of teams would have crumbled coming back into the second Test match and probably would not have given England the fight that we gave them.
“I said at the beginning of this Test match that I back these guys to rebound and there was no better way to do it.”
Hope, who became the first player in history to record centuries in both innings of a first-class match at Headingley, added: “It was mainly about winning the game, especially after the loss at Edgbaston.
“Knowing how much the fellas really wanted this win, you could see the fight and belief in the dressing room on the faces of the guys.”