…in West Indies v England, 2nd ODI, Antigua
Joe Root believes England will take strength from their victory in the second ODI in Antigua.
England had to resort to Plan B to win the match but, going into the ICC Champions Trophy in June, Root feels the experience of victory in such circumstances will give the side confidence to withstand the inevitable challenges that lie ahead.
England were 124 for 6 when Root came together with Chris Woakes. But a calmly-paced seventh-wicket stand of 102 took them to a series-clinching victory with 10 deliveries remaining and both men registering unbeaten half-centuries.
While the collapse – England lost five for 37 at one stage – was far from ideal and will, at some stage, require some reflection, Root thought it boded well that they still found a way to win the game.
“If we’re going to compete in major tournaments like the Champions Trophy, we’re going to have to find ways of winning when it’s tough like that,” Root said. “It’s something we’ve not necessarily been brilliant at previously.
“A lot of the time, when we win, we win comfortably. We blast sides away, whether it be the top order going and doing it or with the ball. So to see two games where we’ve had to be smart and react to conditions is really pleasing.
“There are always going to be times when you are up against it and situations where you are asked: ‘Can you find ways of getting out of that?’
“In both games in Antigua, I think we’ve done that very well.”
Root’s innings was characterised by its restraint. He hit only three fours and no sixes, understanding that it was more important to keep his wicket intact. But while he was delighted with his own contribution, he was full of praise for Woakes, who played the more aggressive role, hitting five fours and two sixes.
“We needed to build a partnership and take the sting out of the collapse,” Root said. “We needed to calm things down.
“It was a nice change to still be there at the end. To have got through that tough period and still be there at the end, it’s something as batsmen really pride yourself on. You always talk about it in the dressing-room: be there at the end; make sure you’ve taken the responsibility to win the game and finish things off.
“Chris played exceptionally well. He played it down to a tee and made it very easy for me just to nudge and nurdle it around to make sure we were on target.”
Meanwhile Eoin Morgan confirmed England would field their best available XI in Barbados. With the series won, there might have been a temptation to look at fringe players such as Tom Curran or Liam Dawson, but Morgan is adamant that, with six ODIs before the Champions Trophy, now is not the time for experimentation.
“We’ll be ruthless,” Morgan said. “We want to win all three games and we’ll be putting out our best XI. We want to try to keep the momentum. It’s important.”
That could mean a return for Alex Hales in place of Sam Billings and Jake Ball in place of Steven Finn.
Morgan was also full pf praise for Woakes. “He’s a guy who just keeping giving within this team,” he said. “He has huge experience as well and is someone who goes without the majority of the praise sometimes, which is typical of his character.
“But this is not the first time he’s done it. He just keeps producing. We don’t want to rely on him too much, but he’s a luxury to have down the order.
“The period where we lost three or four wickets was a bit of a concern but the positive side of that is we came back with a bit of character.”
England travel to Barbados on Monday. They will not train on Monday or Tuesday – many players have been joined by their families while others will take to the golf course – but have a training session planned for Wednesday. The pitch in Barbados is expected to be quicker than the one utilised in Antigua.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. He will be covering England’s tour of the Caribbean in association with Smile Group Travel, specialists in hosted supporters’ packages. (EspnCricinfo)