England can do 'something really special' - Root

Having overseen back-to-back Test series wins in his first summer in charge - the first time England have beaten both touring sides since 2013 - Joe Root was in understandably upbeat mood

Having overseen back-to-back Test series wins in his first summer in charge - the first time England have beaten both touring sides since 2013 - Joe Root was in understandably upbeat mood at the conclusion of the Lord's Test. England came through a see-sawing decider against West Indies with an accomplished performance on the third day to secure a nine-wicket victory and that prompted Root to suggest his players could do "something really special" when they travel to Australia for the Ashes.
He was, in particular, "extremely happy" with the form of James Anderson, whose career-best 7 for 42 helped set up a comfortable chase on the third afternoon. Root also praised the way Mark Stoneman and Tom Westley - two of the top-order Ashes hopefuls - had secured the result in unruffled manner.
"Tonight it's important that we celebrate a great summer of Test cricket," Root said. "We've done some really good stuff and should be really proud of how we've gone about this summer. It's something that the selectors will sit down and think about but I'm really pleased that the two lads at the top of the order, the way they went out and were ruthless, to go and chase a tricky little target down, to show composure and be the two guys not out to win a game for England was great to see and I think it shows where the mentality of the dressing room is right now."
Westley's unbeaten 44 was his highest score since making 59 on debut against South Africa, while Stoneman finished his first series with an average of 30.00; Dawid Malan also contributed half-centuries in the first two Tests against West Indies. Those may not be numbers to make Australia tremble but, when supplemented by the confirmed abilities of players such as Anderson, Ben Stokes (Man of the Match at Lord's) and Root himself, it gave the captain cause for optimism.
"I'm happy with how the whole group's shaping up, to be honest," he said. "Across the summer a number of guys have really stepped up and taken their games forward and that's what you want, guys that have been set up within the team to keep kicking on and contributing consistently, making themselves more of a presence in world cricket that can only good for our team. A number of guys have stood up coming into the Test arena and really made a case for themselves. There's plenty of challenges ahead but I think we're moving along nicely.
"We shouldn't be afraid of going over there and, if we perform at our best, doing something really special. We've got all the attributes that could go down there and put in some really strong performances and get results but I think it's making sure that we approach this next period really wisely, we put the hard work and start preparing now, so when we get to Australia we're already one step ahead."
England's defeat at Headingley in the second Test continued their run of inconsistent form in the longest format and they were again run close in a low-scoring game at Lord's - by a team ranked No. 8 in the world. However, as with the loss to South Africa at Trent Bridge in Root's second match in charge, he could point to the team finding a winning response.
"They were two difficult weeks [after defeats] but what's most pleasing is the resilience and the character we've shown to come back from both of those with extremely strong performances," he said. "I think those learnings and the manner that we won after that is great to ahead of what is going to be a very challenging winter. And along with that comes great opportunity, so if we can continue to have the same approach, keep wanting to get better, keep learning then we'll be in a good place."
Anderson's form, with 39 wickets at 14.10, has been central to the Root era starting successfully and he was named Man of the Series against West Indies. At Lord's, he became only the third fast bowler to reach 500 Test wickets and Root hailed Anderson and Stuart Broad as a "fantastic" partnership to spearhead England's chances Down Under.
"He said at the start of the summer, he's desperate to carry on playing as much as he can for England while he can and I think he has just shown what he is still capable of," Root said of Anderson. "Putting in his career-best figures shows that he is still desperate to kick on and do some more great things.
"The control he has with a ball that's doing a minimal amount and one that's hooping around is remarkable, how he can find the optimum amount of pace to work in different conditions and different surfaces - it's just relentless pressure for the batters. Five hundred wickets doesn't happen very often so this summer has been unreal for him.
"Broady's bowled some really good stuff this year and not had a lot of luck. Between them, the pressure they create is fantastic. What a partnership to have going to Australia, all those wickets and great for the rest of the guys to learn from as well."
England's catching has been rather less exemplary, with 16 drops in the series, and Root acknowledged that would be a focus ahead of their next engagement: Brisbane on November 23. "Especially in Australia, you need to make sure when you create opportunities you take them," he said. "So there'll be a lot of hard work going into that but it's not something we've shied away from this summer and we'll continue doing everything we can to take those chances."

Alan Gardner is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick