Joe Root claimed England must avoid making “shotgun” decisions following their crushing defeat by Australia in the first Test and the captain is unrepentant over the Jimmy Anderson selection gamble that blew up in his face on the opening morning.
Needing to bat out three sessions on the final day to avoid taking a 1-0 deficit to Lord’s next week, England were bowled out for 146 in only 52.3 overs as the off-spinner Nathan Lyon ran riot with six wickets on the turning pitch .
The 251-run win by Australia was a remarkable turnaround from their 122 for eight on the opening day. They stormed “Fortress Edgbaston” thanks to centuries in both innings from Steve Smith in a remarkable comeback from his 12-month ball-tampering suspension.
Root, whose problems include troubling performances from three senior players in Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali, said: “We need to make sure we don’t make any shotgun decisions. This is not your typical England team. It’s up and down, which can be frustrating, but we’re more than capable of going against the trend. I’m fully expecting us to fight our way back into this series.”
Losing Anderson after four overs of the Test left Root playing with 10 men, the 37-year-old having gone into the match after a month out with a calf strain. He is now awaiting the results of a second scan on its apparent recurrence. Asked if he had any regrets, Root replied: “Not at all. He passed every medical test. It was a unanimous decision for him to play.”
Tim Paine, in contrast,said Australia’s confidence grew as a result of the injury, much like England’s did during the 2005 Edgbaston Test when Glenn McGrath stepped on a ball before the start of play.
The Australia captain said: “Jimmy Anderson is one of the best bowlers, if not the best bowler in the world, especially over here in England. I would be lying if I said psychologically it did not make a difference to our team, and physically to theirs. It is a big win for us, but they lost their premier bowler so we have to be realistic. That is why it is one win and there are four huge games to go.”
Jofra Archer is being lined up as Anderson’s replacement and a Test debut at Lord’s provided he can prove his fitness playing for Sussex 2nd XI on Tuesday, while Jack Leach will surely come into contention for the spinner’s role after Moeen struggled to offer his captain any control with the ball.
Root appeared to endorse Moeen holding on to his spot. “You’ve got to remember how threatening he can be. I’m sure he’ll dust himself down and make sure he’s in a good head space going into Lord’s,” he said, only to backtrack when pressed further.
There was also an acceptance that Jason Roy’s aggressive game is only suited to certain scenarios after the opener was bowled by Lyon attempting to launch a six down the ground. Root said: “If he’d had his chance again he might have gone about it slightly differently. But he’s been picked to play in his own way.”
For Paine the win marked the successful reintegration of Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft even if the last two had a quiet Test. Their runs were scarcely needed, however, with Smith’s match aggregate of 286 and near-chanceless performance an ominous portent for England’s attack.
Asked if such a performance would reopen wounds from the Smith-inspired 4-0 defeat of England in 2017-18, Paine replied: “I’m not sure – you’d have to England ask that. But while Steve’s scoring runs and Nathan’s taking wickets we’re a pretty dangerous team. And as I think you saw the rest of us will grow with confidence the better those guys are going.”
Australia now play a three-day tour match against Worcerstershire that starts on Wednesday. Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who missed out on selection at Edgbaston, are expected to play.