Pretoria: England won the World Cup in 2019 but in the Test arena, it proved 12 months of frustration for captain Joe Root as they began the year with a defeat in the West Indies and ended it with a loss in Pretoria.
“It’s been frustrating. It’s been quite a big year of transition in Test cricket. There’s been a lot of change over the year,” said Root, reflecting on how England played 12 Tests in 2019, winning four, drawing two and losing the other six.
They went down 2-1 in the series in the Caribbean at the start of the year, almost botched a first-ever Test against Ireland and failed to regain the Ashes at home in a 2-2 drawn series which followed the euphoria of their World Cup triumph.
Then they were beaten 1-0 in a two-match series in New Zealand in November and December and finished by losing by 107 runs to South Africa on Sunday in the first of their four-match series.
On the flip side, English cricket fans will always cherish one of their great Test triumphs at Headingley against Australia in August when Ben Stokes’s remarkable unbeaten 135 carried them to the unlikeliest of one-wicket triumphs.
“If you look at where we were at the back end of Sri Lanka (in 2018), you’d really have thought we were making strides away from home with signs that things had improved,” said Root.
England won 3-0 away in Sri Lanka in November 2018 to suggest their young side would have a much more fruitful 2019.
Yet Root now has to look to a busy 2020 to turn things around with the England line-up still unsettled and new coach Chris Silverwood yet to make his mark.
“There is still a long way that this team can go and we are looking at all the areas where we can get better,” added Root.
“It’s a determined group of players who are very keen to do that. You cannot fault anyone’s effort, anyone’s desire, the character to want to improve. Over time, if we can learn these lessons and find ways of shifting our mentality into the first innings from the second innings, then we are going to give ourselves a much better chance of winning games.”
Next up for England is the second Test in Cape Town and after they finish in South Africa, they will go to Sri Lanka in March before hosting the West Indies and Pakistan in the summer of 2020.
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After notching up a double century in the series opener, Root continued his brilliant run by hitting 186 in the second Test to lift his side from a spot of bother.
Hero of the 2019 World Cup final, Stokes landed in the country along with players who were not part of the England Test squad in Sri Lanka, where they completed a 2-0 sweep on Monday.
Root and Bairstow got together to thwart the Sri Lankan attack as they put on an unbroken 93-run stand until the close of play.