Michael Vaughan’s criticism of the England side is “unfair” according to England captain, Joe Root.
Vaughan, Root’s boyhood hero, branded England’s batting “appalling” on the BBC’s Test Match Special and suggested it was born from “a lack of respect” for the values of Test cricket. “They look like they are playing a T20 game,” he said.
England were bowled out for just 133 in the second innings at Trent Bridge, succumbing to the second biggest defeat, in terms of runs, in their history against South Africa. Across the game, they lost several wickets to oddly aggressive strokes, with Root himself guilty of a loose drive in the first innings and Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali falling in similarly aggressive fashion in the second innings.
It was England’s seventh loss in their 10 most recent Tests. And it left Vaughan both unimpressed and suggesting that England were struggling to adjust having just played several months of white-ball cricket leading into the ICC Champions Trophy.
He was not alone in his condemnation. Another former England captain, Nasser Hussain, blasted England for playing a “rubbish brand of cricket” on Sky Sports, while Geoff Boycott described the performance as “absolute tripe” on the BBC.
But Root, who has seen Vaughan as a mentor, countered by saying England had simply suffered a bad game and that he “couldn’t believe” Vaughan would suggest such a thing.
“That’s very unfair,” he said. “I can’t believe he’s actually said that, to be honest.
“We pride ourselves on winning series like this and unfortunately we’ve played poorly this week.”
While Root admitted some of England’s batting was “disappointing,” he insisted the result was not a fair representation of the team’s quality. He accepted, though, that England’s batsmen were struggling to adapt between limited-overs and Test cricket and warned they would have to learn the lessons quickly if they were to win a series that is currently squared at 1-1.
“It was very disappointing the way we played today,” Root said. “We’re a side that doesn’t like giving anything away and unfortunately today that wasn’t a fair representation of how good we are as a team.
“It’s important to stay calm. There’s a lot of cricket left to be played in this series. It’s important we don’t sulk and we don’t get too down on ourselves. We’re a good side and we don’t lose that overnight.
“We need to learn the lessons quickly from this week. We didn’t assess the situation well enough in the first innings and then from that we couldn’t find a way to get back into the game.
“A lot of sides do [struggle to adjust between formats] in world cricket: the amount of white-ball cricket we play and the crossover between formats.
“Part of Test cricket is trying to find a balance [between defence and attack] and, if it’s not your strength, you build it into your natural game. You have periods where you can absorb a bit of pressure and find the right moment to apply it when chances come along.
“Throughout this game we have not done that very well at all. We are capable of doing it and have done it previously but this wasn’t a very good example of it.
“But it’s part and parcel of Test cricket. We need to be better at that. There’s no shying away from it. We need to make sure we learn quickly and, if we are in a similar situation at The Oval, for example, we play it slightly smarter.
“The ways we’ve gone about it previously haven’t worked so we have to look for something different and make sure we work very hard at that and make sure it sticks.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo