A defiant Joe Root insisted the Ashes series was by no means over despite England falling to a 120-run defeat in the second Test at Adelaide Oval on Wednesday to go 2-0 down with three matches to play.
England, swept 5-0 on their last visit to Australia, must now win at least two of the remaining matches in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, as well as draw the other, to retain the urn they won with a 3-2 triumph on home soil in 2015.
Despite England’s extremely poor record in Perth, Root thought the fight the tourists put up on the third and fourth days in Adelaide meant the series was very much alive.
“I’d strongly disagree,” he said when asked what he would say to those who believed England were heading for another whitewash.
“The way we responded with ball and bat in the second innings was outstanding and proved to everyone we are still massively in the series, it’s simple as that.
“We’ve shown throughout the two games in periods we can outperform Australia, just not over five days, and that’s going to be our challenge.
“If we can get that right, and perform to our ability for longer periods of time, we’ll win games. Simple as that.”
England’s late resurgence in Adelaide gave them some hope of claiming a victory with a ground record run chase of 354 but they ultimately withered in the face of Australia’s pace attack on Wednesday.
Root’s innings was always going to be key to England hopes but he was caught behind off a delivery that nicked the bottom of his bat before he could add to his overnight tally of 67 and the last six wickets fell for just 57 runs.
“I don’t think we did ourselves justice,” Root said.
“But give credit to the bowlers. They bowled a very good length and made it difficult to get set. On a fifth day wicket you’re going to get balls that stay low.”
Root said suggestions that this tour would be a carbon copy of the 2013-14 visit were well wide of the mark, even if the series score was the same after two matches.
“I think we’re in a much better place than that, there’s still a lot of confidence going into that next game,” Root added.
“We’re playing better cricket this time, I don’t think we’re as unevenly matched as we were last time around. You’ve seen us in control for periods of the game, whereas I don’t think that was the case last time round.”