Joe Root’s England have arrived at Old Trafford in a state of reinvention as the new captain acknowledges the important lessons already learned during his short tenure.
Victory in Manchester will deliver a 3-1 series success over South Africa in Root’s maiden series in charge – yet it has been far from plain sailing.
Sandwiched between impressive victories at Lord’s and then the Oval was a 340-run trouncing in the second Investec Test at Trent Bridge.
It was after that mishap that former England captain Michael Vaughan claimed the current team were failing to “respect” Test cricket, specifically with their gung-ho approach to batting in Nottingham.
Root took issue at the time but has since made his peace after the minor spat with his friend and mentor.
Asked if the experiences of Trent Bridge could turn out to be a watershed for his developing team, he said: “Maybe slightly. We weren’t good enough, and I think it was important that we sat down and found a way to come back from that. The response the guys came up with was excellent.”
Root cited a characteristically doughty 88 from opener Alastair Cook and then a hundred from Ben Stokes as evidence England had adapted their proactive methods successfully.
“One thing we can take from last week was that batting approach, playing in that manner,” he added. If we try and harness that and repeat that over and over, we will give ourselves the best chance.
“There were very few dismissals in that first innings where we gave our wickets away on a very bowler-friendly surface. If we can try and capture that and take that forward we will be a difficult side to (beat).
“I think it’s important we drive that forward, and it’s not just a one-off thing.”
Root is already beginning to think about fine-tuning plans for next winter’s Ashes, including settling the batting order, which last week featured two debutants.
Several positions remain far from certain, including that of Keaton Jennings as Cook’s opening partner.
Jennings began his Test career with a century on debut in Mumbai, but averages only 15.33 against South Africa this summer.
Root has been impressed nonetheless by the Durham batsman’s general composure.
He said: “He’s a very level-headed guy. He’s got a very strong character and throughout he’s been very much the same in the way he’s approached his training and in each game as well.
“It’s great to see someone so light of experience be very mature and go about it in the right way.
“The way he played in that second innings (at the Oval) was great to see. I’m pleased that he’s been able to get a score and hope that’ll lead into some more runs this week.”
As for the remainder of the batting line-up, Root added: “That is something we will have to get nailed down before we go to Australia. I hope we will stumble across it very quickly.”