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Cricket news - Root lauds England's character and self-belief
Joe Root was lavish in his praise of Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes
There seems to be something about August that fires up this English team to make comebacks out of nowhere. It was just about a year ago that Ben Stokes produced that Houdini act at Headingley to get them across the line. A game where England faced many lows, including being bowled out for a paltry 67 in the first innings. Nobody gave them a chance back then, and rightly so. Miracles don't happen often, do they?
However, what happened thereafter is history. One that was orchestrated by Stokes's brilliance. A year prior to Headingley, again in August, England did the exact same thing. If it was Australia in 2019, it was India the year before. A game that Virat Kohli's men thought they had conquered at Edgbaston but they found a new hero in debutant Sam Curran who produced all-round efforts so big that even a Virat Kohli century was downed.
Cut back to present day in Manchester and England were clearly under the pump after a sorry batting effort in the first innings. Giving away a lead of 107 on a typically abrasive Old Trafford surface was nothing short of game-deciding. Or so we all thought. But that was when England decided to bring their comeback gig to the table once more. Of course, they were aided by Pakistan's mercurial ability of being unpredictable but the hosts deserved every bit of the credit.
England captain Joe Root was lavish in his praise of the team, especially the men of the moment, Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes. "The partnership between Woakesy and Buttler was brilliant. We knew it was going to take something special but after last summer, it's really hard to stop believing," remarked a buoyant Root at the post-match presentation ceremony. "That's one strong trait of ours, that we have a lot of self-belief, so I'm really proud of them."
After having started rather steadily before Lunch in pursuit of a dodgy target of 277, England soon found themselves in a pickle at 117/5 midway through the post-lunch session. Not only was the pitch playing tricks but also Pakistan's bowlers seemed to have found that extra gear to go for the kill. It was anything but an ideal situation for Buttler and Woakes to get into. But what they produced was magical, even if at times exceedingly adventurous.
With the ball going soft and the pitch suddenly not as threatening, Pakistan were hit hard by the counterattack from the duo, especially Buttler who went hard at the spinners. Root underlined the importance of that strategy which ensured that England not only got some breathing space but also enabled them to put Pakistan under serious pressure. Arguably, it was that moment where the game was probably decided.
"For Jos to play as well as he did, it showed his character," observed Root. "It made sure that the second new ball wouldn't be a factor since he attacked the spinners."
The heist also meant that England finally won the opening Test of a series for a change. It was something that had been biting them for a while and Root admitted as much. "It has been frustrating to lose the first Test of the series all the time, so I couldn't be prouder of the character of the team."
After stumps on the third day, Woakes had spoken about the need to counterattack in the fourth innings on this kind of a surface. Little did he know that he would be required to walk the talk. And that he did in style. While Buttler dominated most of the partnership, it was Woakes who saw the team through till the very end, producing a gutsy half-century of his own.
"I think that was the way to go on that wicket, just counterattack," said Woakes who won the Player of the Match for his all-round show. "Especially the ball that Ollie got. We thought of taking initiative by scoring quickly and thought that was the way to go on that surface. The idea of taking it to them was the perfect thing to do. To see Jos do his thing was incredible. Unfortunately he got out."
Like Buttler who had been under the scanner for his run drought and slippery glovework, Woakes too had faced some criticism, more so for his batting which had derailed a bit in recent times. In such a scenario, this innings from the bowling all-rounder was more than welcome for himself and England. Woakes was influential with the ball in the second innings before chipping in with the bat.
"I don't think I've lacked in training in my batting form. Thankfully I focused on the ball today and managed to hit it. Very pleasing to pick up big wickets too, and I feel really good with the ball. Hopefully, it will continue."
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