Joe Root defends England's final-day approach, says chasing wasn't 'realistic'
"It was about using it as an opportunity to be a bit more disciplined as a batting group"
Joe Root has defended England's approach on the final day of the first LV= Insurance Test against New Zealand. England were set 273 off 75 overs on the final day but, by the time hands were shaken on a draw with five scheduled overs remaining, they were still more than 100 runs from their target. Dom Sibley, who finished unbeaten on 60 from 207 balls, reached his half-century in 161 balls. That is the equal-seventh slowest half-century by an England opener this century. But while there was some frustration from those watching in the ground or on TV, Root, the England captain, suggested there wasn't a "realistic opportunity" of victory on a demanding surface providing uneven bounce and against an excellent seam bowling attack.
Instead, he was content to his see his young side - the top seven in this match, without the likes of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, was the youngest England has ever fielded in a home Test - spend some time at the crease after a modest first-innings effort.
"Having played on that wicket for a few days, we knew it wasn't going to be as straightforward as it looked," Root said. "If you look at the run rate throughout the game, it was hard to score above three an over even when the pitch was at its absolute best.
"We wanted to lay ourselves a foundation but, once we got through the initial phase, it just didn't feel like there was a realistic opportunity for us to win the game. So it was about using it as an opportunity to be a bit more disciplined as a batting group. At times in the first innings we showed a little bit of ill discipline. This was a chance to put that right and take a bit of confidence going into the rest of the series.
"The last two times we've played in New Zealand we've been hammered in the first game and pretty much out the series. But going to Edgbaston, this series is very much alive. We've got a chance to win it and we can take confidence from some very good individual performances in this game."
Root expressed particular satisfaction in the performance of Sibley, who came into this match having not made a double-figure score in his six most recent Test innings.
"He showed great resilience and character out there," Root said. "He really did trust his defence and show that he has the mental capacity for Test cricket. Sometimes you learn a lot about players in those situations.
"On a surface like that, where the ball was going up and down, when guys respond in that manner, it tells you a lot about them. I'm really pleased for him and it will give him a lot of confidence."
But Root did admit that the side's young middle-order batters were going to have to "learn very quickly" after a first-innings performance which saw five of them contribute just 24-runs between them.
"I think there were a number of dismissals that weren't good enough for Test cricket in the first innings," he said. "We are better than that as a side. They're going to have to learn very quickly in this environment. But you know they have the right attitude and the right temperament. When they have made mistakes in the past, they have responded well.
"Today was an opportunity to show that we can be a little bit more resilient and harder to get out. The guys fronted up and I think they did it very well."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo