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ENGLAND V SOUTH AFRICA TESTS

Root shocked by "unfair" criticism

18 July 2017

England will be searching for answers after the Trent Bridge thrashing // Getty

New England skipper taken aback by a scathing assessment of the home side's performance in the second Test

To rub salt into England’s wounds after their humiliating 340-run defeat by South Africa at Trent Bridge, we can throw in a row between new captain Joe Root and his mentor Michael Vaughan.


Root, reeling after this setback in just his second Test leading the side, was visibly taken aback when asked what he thought of the 2005 Ashes-winning captain’s conclusion that this group of England batsmen do not “respect” Test cricket.

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Vaughan, who played alongside Root’s dad Matt at the Sheffield Collegiate Club and has been a close friend of the family since Joe was a boy, had made his comments after England were routed for 205 in their first innings of this second Test.

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“The England batting has been appalling,” he said on the BBC’s Test Match Special. “Maybe it’s a lack of respect about what the game is.

“They look like they are playing a Twenty20 game. I look at the approach - yes, the ball has done a little bit but it’s not been drastic.

“They have this approach of attack, attack, attack. There is no thought or feeling of seeing off a bowler or wearing a team down.”

What followed on this fourth and final day, when England were skittled for 133 inside 45 overs, only backed up Vaughan’s views.

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Indeed, while South Africa’s first innings lasted 96.2 overs, England only batted for 96.1 across the entire match.

Root, though, was unimpressed with his old mentor’s assessment.

“I think that’s very unfair - I can’t believe he’s actually said that to be honest,” said Root. “We pride ourselves on winning series like this and unfortunately we’ve played poorly this week but the most important thing now is to respond well and make sure we put it right at The Oval.”

Vaughan was not alone in his criticism, with another former England captain in Nasser Hussain, who lamented that this current team played a “rubbish brand of cricket”.

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"England are fragile,” he said. “They have lost six of their last eight Tests and eight of their last 13. England are not an unstoppable force - they have potential and can put in brilliant performances but there are cracks so if the opposition up their game they can get exposed.

“There are times to be attacking but I still believe there is a role for someone to value their wicket and say ‘Over my dead body’.

“I want to see people value their wicket. If people bowl well, acknowledge it, don’t say ‘we're trying to play a positive brand of cricket'. A score of 133 all out is a rubbish brand of cricket - they are not showing a steely side, something South Africa's No3, Hashim Amla, has in abundance."

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Australia will be licking their lips if England keep this same top six for the Ashes series later this year.

South Africa bowled magnificently during this match, with Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Chris Morris, playing his first Test in England, ruthlessly exploiting the technical weaknesses of both opener Keaton Jennings and No.3 Gary Ballance in particular.

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It seems inconceivable that both, who made respective scores of three and four on the final day, will keep their places for next week’s third Test at The Oval.

But Root, who lobbied for his Yorkshire teammate in Ballance to come in at No3, said: “We will sit down over the next couple of days. After Lord’s it happened quite quickly which is when we sat down and decided the squad for this game. It might take a bit longer in terms of getting us all together in the same room, that will be decided when we all catch up.”

Hussain, though, was in no mood to retract his ire, with England’s selectors also drawn into his line of fire.

“The selectors are going to have to have a good long look at themselves because their record in the last two years has been abysmal.

“Name some lads who’ve come in: James Vince, (Ben) Duckett, Gareth Batty, Zafar Ansari ... I can name a long list but no one’s coming in and doing well. Ballance, Alex Hales.

“It’s a sad indictment that all those lads are getting runs and wickets in county cricket but every time they're picked for England they’re not.”

About the Writer

 @StocksC_cricket
@StocksC_cricket

Chris Stocks is a freelance cricket writer based in London. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent and London Evening Standard.

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