It didn’t work out for Joe Root at Headingley – his home ground – against West Indies in the second Test but for him to impose such an aggressive declaration so early in his England Test captaincy was impressive and really good to see.
Over the years, certainly at times under the stewardship of Root’s predecessor Alastair Cook, England would allow an innings to drag on too long, waiting until they were 450-500 runs ahead before declaring.
Root’s decision was a bold one and I hope going forward he is that sort of skipper and won’t be put off by what happened in Leeds, where West Indies held their nerve to claim a thrilling five-wicket victory.
I would like to think the 26-year-old is sufficiently confident to play around with different field settings during the Ashes this winter and not just employ the same kind of boring tactics that we often witness in England.
Root was forced to defend his decision to declare in the aftermath of the second Test but I believe it was the correct one, even though things didn’t pan out as expected.
He backed his bowling unit to take 10 wickets against a side prone to a collapse, which was evident in the first Test at Edgbaston. Sometimes you just have to give the opposition credit.
It was quite a slow pitch up at Headingley – the ball wasn’t flying around the batsmen’s ears – and those are the sorts of wickets the tourists will be used to playing on in the Caribbean.
It’s all part of Root’s learning curve as captain. He will have to be proficient in leading and orchestrating proceedings in different conditions around the world and that takes time.
Cook found out how different it was skippering in the subcontinent, for instance, than in England and he improved the more he did the job.
Root is only six matches into his reign and it’s so far, so good. He looks cool and calm under pressure and the added responsibility is clearly not affecting his batting – he has scored two hundreds and five half-centuries in 11 innings – which is always a nagging concern.
The result of the second Test, while bitterly disappointing for England, was good for the Caribbean as well as the game itself. When Test matches are as one-sided as the Edgbaston match, where England won by an innings and 209 runs, it can be dull.
Games like that are not great to watch and there was a sense of ‘here we go again, West Indies are going to roll over and die in the remainder of the series’ but the fight they showed to perform how they did was a revelation.
The thrashing of West Indies at Edgbaston once again stoked the debate about the need for there to be two divisions of Test cricket to, among other things, improve competitiveness.
With that backdrop, it was refreshing to see West Indies and then Bangladesh, who recorded their maiden Test victory over Australia in Mirpur on Wednesday, show that they are improving and can beat the best sides on the planet. It’s been a good week for Test cricket.