England captain Joe Root: Ashes preparation starts now – with a win in final Test | Cricket | Sport

2 months ago
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The England captain has been forced to absorb lessons from what has been an unforgiving and salutary experience this winter.

But he insists that a positive postscript here in Sydney can be the start of England’s fightback, just as it was for Australia when they won the final Test on English soil in an already lost series at The Oval in 2015.

“It’s really important to me and this squad moving into the rest of this winter, and then into the summer, that we can get a win off this tour and build on that for four years’ time,” said Root.

“The next time we come here we can’t look at it in a daunted way, or feel like there’s a massive gap between the two sides, because if we do things in the right way we’ve got a really good chance next time round.

“It’s going to be really important that we look at performing out here well from now and not too far later down the line, two years or a year in advance. The planning for it has to start now.”

Lessons have been learned on and off the pitch according to Root, who admitted much of the damage was self-inflicted and the attention it brought unwelcome.

Asked what England should have done differently if they had their time again, he said: “Make sure no one is head-butting anyone and people were more sensible off the field on the back of what happened in the summer.”

But if England lost battles off the field, Root and coach Trevor Bayliss believe their strategies were not flawed however much the closed ranks of both current and former Australia players might disagree.

“It’s not been the way we’ve looked to do it, it’s been the way we’ve executed it, and it’s very difficult to say if I had my time again how I’d change that,” he said.

“The thought processes and the way we’ve wanted to break down Australia and win over here has not necessarily been wrong. We’ve just been out-skilled in these conditions and that’s tough to take.”

If Root’s 2017 England have been ‘out-skilled’ it has, he says, not been for a lack of application, whatever the perception from outside. Ben Stokes would have helped in that regard on the field had he not already done the opposite off it.

“That extra bit of pace could be very important next time round. It’s hard to plan for that. That’s something that’s got to come quite naturally from somewhere,” said Root.

“It’s also been proved how big the spin department can be over here, and making sure it’s as strong as it can be. And as a batting group, you’ve just got to be prepared to bat for long, long periods of time.

“The characters currently in our squad have that desire and ability but it’s now making sure that leading up to that next Ashes series, which is a long, long way off, there’s plenty of opportunities for guys to gain experience and come back really, really ready for it.”

Australia captain Steve Smith agreed with Root when asked about the slingshot momentum victory in this final Test could have for the England side going forward.

“In 2015 [winning the last Test] it certainly gave us confidence just knowing that we could win in foreign conditions,” said the Australia skipper. “England will be doing their best to get the result this week and we need to do everything we can to stop that happening.”

The sight of Mitchell Starc declaring himself fit after a run-out in the SCG nets on Tuesday following a fortnight resting his bruised heel was not good news.

The Sydney Cricket Ground has had limited use this year with just one T20 game and no Sheffield Shield cricket following running repairs after a full AFL season. But the strip had a fair covering of grass on it (8mm) 48 hours out.

Smith indicated he had been told that would be cut down to 5mm and for the roasting weather to bake it enough for spin to play a big part later on in the match.

And for England that leaves a tricky dilemma with seam bowling likely to be rewarded in the opening exchanges of the match and spin in its latter stages.

Root insisted no decision had been made on Mason Crane’s possible call-up but it seems likely that if he does come in it will be at the expense of Tom Curran rather than Moeen Ali.