Chasing 271 for victory, England collapsed from 68 for 0 to 124 all out in barely an hour-and-a-half’s play, as Australia wrapped up the campaign with a 146-run victory. No England player in either innings scored more than 36, while Root himself – until recently the ICC’s No.1-ranked Test batter – is still waiting for his first Ashes hundred in Australia, after being bowled for 11 in the midst of the collapse.
The result means that England have now won none and lost 13 of their last 15 Tests in Australia since 2013, of which Root himself has played in 14, and captained 10. This latest 4-0 result matched the scoreline he oversaw on his maiden tour in charge in 2017-18.
No other player of the past 100 years has captained England on more than one Ashes tour, let alone to two such resounding defeats, but with their Test fortunes at “rock-bottom”, according to his predecessor, Alastair Cook, Root believes he is still the man to oversee the team’s attempts to rebuild, starting with their three-Test tour of the Caribbean in March.
“I’d love the opportunity to take this team forward and to turn things around,” Root said. “At the minute, we are going through a real tough stage as a group of players, and the performances haven’t been good enough. But I’d love the opportunity to try and turn things around and for us to start finding the performances that you’d expect from an English Test team, which we’ve been lacking of late.”
Given the frailties in England’s line-up, alternatives to Root are thin on the ground. Ben Stokes, his vice-captain, endured a tough campaign on his return to the team after a mental-health break last summer, while there are few other contenders who are currently sure of a regular place in the team.
However, Root is adamant he wants the job for the right reasons, and not because there’s no viable successor.
“I believe I am the right man to take this team forward, in my own eyes,” he said. “If that decision is taken out of my hands, then so be it, but I’d love the opportunity to carry that forward. And yes, I do have an appetite to carry on and to turn things around, but we’ll see how things unfold.”
“There’s a lot of things to consider,” Root said. “Playing in these bubbles takes its toll and there are certain things that definitely need to change. We’ve got an opportunity to really prioritise Test cricket off the back of this, and I’m sure I’ll get an opportunity to express my views, and how I think we can make significant changes to the red-ball game in our country.”
In the short term, however, Root knows the main focus will be on the batters within the current England set-up. Aside from Root himself, whose haul of 322 runs at 32.20 was well below his recent standards, none of the players who took part in Hobart averaged more than 30 – a figure that each of Australia’s top six in the same Test surpassed.
“It was a really poor display today with the bat,” Root said. “We felt like we had a real opportunity to win this Test match, but there were some very poor dismissals after a very promising start, so it’s disappointing to be sat here, beaten as heavily as that.
“The quality’s there … the potential is, certainly,” he added. “There’s a lot of talent, we’ve just not turned it into performances, which is the bottom line in Test cricket. At this level, you’ve got to bang out performances, and we’ve not managed to do that at all on this on this trip as a batting group.”
“Far too many times we’ve been bowled out for under 200, and we are never going to win Test matches when we don’t get runs on the board,” Root said. “I felt for our bowlers after the performance they put in in that second innings. We really missed an opportunity this week.
“A lot of guys will look at themselves in the mirror and say ‘I’ve not given a very good account of myself’,” he added. “That’s a frustration. We have let ourselves down because we’ve not given a fair account of what we’re capable of.
“But at the same time, it’s quite evident that Australia, at this moment in time, are a better team than us in all areas. It hurts me to say that, but it’s the reality of things. We’ve got to accept that and find a way of being better. Thankfully we’ve got four or five weeks at home, before the opportunity to go to the West Indies and start to make significant improvement as a group of players.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket