In Brief

‘It hurts’: Joe Root vows to stay on as England Test captain despite Ashes loss

Australia retain the urn after a 185-run victory at Old Trafford

The Ashes 2019: England vs. Australia
  • 4th Test, Old Trafford 
  • Australia first innings: 497-8 declared  
  • England first innings: 301 
  • Australia second innings: 186-6 declared  
  • England second innings: 197  
  • Australia won by 185 runs  

Joe Root insisted he remains the right man to skipper England after Australia retained the Ashes at Old Trafford on Sunday. 

“I have been given a fantastic opportunity to captain the Test side and will continue to work very hard at doing my best at that,” he said.

There was no repetition of the “miracle of Headingley” as the tourists won the fourth Test to take a 2-1 series lead with one match remaining. 

As current holders of the old urn the Aussies will hang on to cricket’s most famous trophy regardless of what happens at The Oval later this week.

Root is the first England captain to lose a home Ashes series since 2001, and he was also at the helm Down Under in 2017 when England were thrashed 4-0 by Australia. 

That’s led to growing criticism about his leadership skills in recent weeks, despite the fact that as BBC Sport points out, Root’s win percentage of 50 is better than all his predecessors in the past 38 years bar Michael Vaughan’s. 

Nonetheless, he has lost the Ashes and Root was candid in how that feels. “It hurts,” he said. “I have to take that on the chin. You have to look at areas you want to get better at, both in yourself and as a team.” 

No repeat

It’s not just Root’s captaincy, however, that is under the spotlight, but also his batting. 

When he emerged onto the Test scene in 2012, Root quickly established himself as world-class but his form has fallen away in recent seasons and in this series he’s made just 247 runs at an average of 30. 

He failed again in England’s second innings in Manchester, going for a duck, and this time Ben Stokes didn’t come to the rescue.

When Stokes strode to the crease on Sunday morning with England 66-3, there was a roar of expectation around Old Trafford as fans hailed the hero of Headingley. But there was to be no repeat of his scorching century on this occasion as Stokes fell for one, nicking a ball from Pat Cummins to slip.

Great of the game

With him went England’s hopes of avoiding defeat, although there was valiant resistance from the tail end with Craig Overton occupying the crease for nearly three hours for his 21, and Jack Leach spending an hour at the wicket for 12. 

But this time the Aussies were not to be denied the victory they craved and they clinched the Ashes shortly after 6pm. And deservedly so. 

They have been the far superior team in the series with a more consistent and probing pace attack, and in Steve Smith a truly great a batsman who now lies fifth on the all-time Ashes batting averages

Only Don Bradman (89.7), Eddie Paynter (84.4), Sid Barnes (70.8) and Herbert Sutcliffe (66.8) better Smith’s average of 65.7 in Ashes Tests; Barnes and Sutcliffe, however, played in only seven and nine Tests, while Smith has appeared in 26. He’s reached new heights this summer, amassing 671 runs in five innings at an average of 134.

“He is a genius,” is how Aussie captain Tim Paine described Smith. “The scary thing is he’s getting better. I don’t know where it is going to stop but we are enjoying being on the ride that is for sure.”

Australia players celebrate their Ashes series victory after the fourth Test at Old Trafford

Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Reactions to Australia’s Ashes triumph

Nasser Hussain, Daily Mail

“It’s been clear in this game that Root has felt let down by some of his bowlers, especially on the first day. But he knows the buck stops with him. It’s up to the captain to get the best out of his team.” 

Vic Marks, The Guardian

“The Australians celebrated joyously and with good reason. It had been a hard slog; the Headingley match represented an almighty blow to the solar plexus. But they never fell into the trap of feeling sorry for themselves.”

Michael Atherton on Steve Smith, The Times

“Twin hundreds at Edgbaston, a double hundred and half-century at Old Trafford, he has been immense and the difference between the teams.”

Today’s back pages

XXXX it! Australia and Steve Smith toast Ashes win

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