Ashes 2019: Root proud of England's character in Old Trafford defeat

By Sports Desk September 08, 2019

England captain Joe Root remained proud of his side after their Ashes hopes ended with a "bitterly disappointing" Old Trafford defeat.

The 185-run loss to Australia in Manchester saw England miss out on a chance to regain the urn.

Craig Overton and one of England's Headingley heroes, Jack Leach, kept Australia waiting for the winning moment with a determined lower-order alliance.

But Marnus Labuschagne and Josh Hazlewood struck the final blows in the evening session, sparking joyful celebrations among the tourists.

Australia lead the series 2-1 heading into the final Test at The Oval, with Tim Paine's side, as holders, retaining the Ashes with a match to spare.

England must lick their wounds ahead of a possible reshuffle of the Test squad, but Root believes the dramatic moments throughout the series have shown the spirit within his side.

"We showed great character, great fight and belief in what we wanted to achieve, and I couldn't be more proud of the effort," a clearly emotional Root said at the post-match presentation.

"[It was] a really resilient performance, but unfortunately it wasn't quite enough. We always believed, always fight right until the end.

"Another great Test match, we've had fantastic support once more. It is bitterly disappointing but we've got to make sure we turn up for a big game for us at The Oval.

"You can always sit back and look at different areas of the game where you could have done things slightly differently, but today I'm really proud of the guys here.

"To get ourselves into a position like that, fight as hard as that, you learn a lot about the characters in the team, everybody stood up and played bravely. They should be proud of that."

Despite Ben Stokes' incredible match-winning innings at Headingley, the series has belonged to Australia's Steve Smith, who returned from his concussion-enforced absence in style.

Smith hit 211 in the first innings before stalling England's momentum with the ball in his second knock, scoring 82, and Root conceded the former Australia captain has proved the difference.

"Every batsman has been put under pressure, bar maybe Steve Smith, through the entire series," Root said.

"That's Test cricket at its best, you expect it to be challenging, expect guys to make life hard for you. It's been a series where batting has been quite difficult and you've got to keep trying to score runs.

"[Smith] has been hard work to get out. You look back at moments which could have gone differently and ultimately he's probably been the difference this Test match."

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    Jordan Henderson demanded an apology from Krasimir Balakov after the Bulgaria head coach did not offer outright condemnation of the racist abuse directed towards England players during their 6-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win in Sofia.

    Play was stopped twice before half-time during a comfortable victory for Gareth Southgate's men on Monday, with an address over the Vasil Levski National Stadium urging an end to racist chanting before a number of Bulgaria fans were removed from the ground.

    England players informed the match officials of the discriminatory behaviour and an abandonment looked possible at one stage, although Harry Kane would ultimately round out an emphatic scoreline set in motion by Marcus Rashford's blistering opener and embellished by braces from Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley.

    Henderson exchanged words with Balakov during one of the breaks in play and was aghast when he heard the 53-year-old had stated after the game that the allegations of racism must be "proven", choosing instead to criticise the behaviour of England supporters and a pre-match focus upon a potential for racist incidents.

    "I had a few words with the manager. It wasn't acceptable – something needs to be done," the Liverpool captain told Sky Sports News.

    "He needs to apologise now, really, on behalf of the team and the fans. He knows what was going on. He was asking me what the problem was.

    "When I told him he knew what was going on, it was baffling how he didn't, really. Hopefully he looks back and apologises because anyone watching that game would be disgusted really."

    England discussed whether they should resume the match at half-time and Henderson, angered by what had transpired, took pride in their unanimous response in the face of adversity.

    "I felt angry," he said. "They're my team-mates, my friends who I've known for a long time and I share a dressing room with.

    "It was shocking to see. I was so angry at one point but the game goes on, you've got to switch the focus to the football.

    "At half-time we spoke about it, we wanted to carry on. If one person said they didn't want to go out then we wouldn't have done and that would have been it.

    "But everybody's message was we wanted to make them suffer and not make them win. I felt we did that brilliantly."

  • Kick It Out demands UEFA 'show leadership' after England players receive racial abuse in Bulgaria Kick It Out demands UEFA 'show leadership' after England players receive racial abuse in Bulgaria

    Anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out has slammed UEFA for its handling of England's Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria, and its previous punishments for racial abuse.

    England's 6-0 win on Monday was halted twice in the first half, with the match seemingly set to be abandoned amid chants from sections of Bulgaria's support at Vasil Levski National Stadium, which was partially shut due to previous incidents of racist abuse from some home supporters.

    Gareth Southgate's England elected to come back out for the second half, with a group of Bulgaria fans ejected from the ground during the second stoppage.

    During the first stoppage, a message was read out over the public address system – following UEFA's three-step protocol for tackling incidents of abuse at games.

    However, Kick It Out has questioned why the protocol was not followed afterwards, while criticising UEFA's attempts at tackling racism.

    "We are sickened by the disgusting racist abuse directed at England men's team tonight by Bulgaria supporters – including TV footage which appeared to show Nazi salutes and monkey noises," Kick It Out stated.

    "We applaud Gareth Southgate, his staff and players for the actions taken in reporting the abhorrent abuse, and offer our full support to the entire squad, their families and anyone affected by those appalling scenes.

    "We are encouraged that the protocol was initially enforced by the match officials, but UEFA must explain why players weren't sent to the dressing room during Step Two, as is clearly stated in the rules.

    "TV footage also clearly shows that racist abuse continued in the second half, so it is unacceptable that Step Three was not enforced. This match should have been abandoned by the officials.

    "It's now time for UEFA to step up and show some leadership. For far too long, they have consistently failed to take effective action.

    "The fact Bulgaria are already hosting this game with a partial stadium closure for racist abuse shows that UEFA's sanctions are not fit for purpose.

    "There can be no more pitiful fines or short stadium bans. If UEFA care at all about tackling discrimination – and if the Equal Game campaign means anything – then points deductions and tournament expulsion must follow."

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