Joe Root has admitted England “weren’t able to handle” the pace and legspin combination of the Pakistan attack on the third day in Dubai as they lost 7 for 36 during the morning session to leave themselves a mountain to climb if they are to avoid defeat.
He partially blamed himself, saying he should have been the batsman to go on and anchor the innings after he resumed on 76. A couple of early full tosses from Yasir Shah helped get him underway but he then edged a full delivery from Wahab Riaz which set England’s collapse in motion.
“Fair play to Pakistan, they put us under a lot of pressure, they bowled very consistently and got the ball to reverse at speed and we weren’t able to handle that,” he said. “The legspinner bowled with some good control, but if we are being brutally honest there were a few shots in our dismissals which we would probably want to rethink.
“Eighty-odd, set fair from last night, I felt as if I should be the one to go on and make a big score, build a big partnership with Jonny and we’d be near their score. So that was very disappointing.”
Although Root fell between 83 and 98 for the fifth time this year – he made 85 in the first Test in Abu Dhabi – he has done more than most to help hold together a flimsy England batting order with 1207 runs in 2015. Other than him and Alastair Cook – the England captain has also scored over 1200 runs for the year – no other player in the XI is close to an average of 40 since England resumed Test cricket against West Indies in April.
They were able to get away with lean returns in the Ashes, where two seamer-friendly pitches made for low scoring matches at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge which decided the series, but the warning signs have been there on flatter pitches such as Lord’s and The Oval where hefty totals have been the order of the day. However, Root insisted that he was not feeling an extra burden on him.
“I don’t think so, you just go in and try and play every situation as you see it,” he said. “This morning we got it wrong, plain and simple. We knew what we had to do, I can speak for myself and the collective: we weren’t able to match Pakistan.
“It’s not a very easy place to start your innings and when you are put under pressure, as we were, you can get found out if you aren’t right on the ball from the start. It’s something we’ve got to learn from and learn fast going into the second innings.”
One player suffering more than most at the moment is Jos Buttler whose average since the start of the Ashes is 13.54. He made a duck, the third of Wahab’s three wickets in an electric nine-over spell. Cook praised Buttler’s qualities before the Test and Root, the vice captain, said that he could see him emerging from the slump very soon.
“You can single out individuals as much as you want but as a side we always look after each, we are desperate for everyone to do well and currently Jos has had a couple of low scores but I’ve got every confidence in him turning it around and I can see him doing great things for England in the future.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.