England captain Joe Root was disappointed his team could not finish off West Indies on the final day of the first test on Saturday but was hardly going to complain after a winter of discontent.
England, under plenty of scrutiny at the best of times, arrived in the Caribbean even more so after a 4-0 Ashes drubbing by Australia.
“I’m really proud of the team today, the (whole) week actually,” Root said after the match finished in a draw, England coming up six wickets short of bowling out West Indies in the second innings on the island of Antigua.
“From that first hour when we found ourselves in a tricky spot (losing four quick wickets), I think the character we showed off the back of the previous tour to not panic and get ourselves back in the game ... we got better and better on a very docile wicket for our seamers.
“(There are a) lot of good signs going into the rest of the series.”
England’s cause was not helped by the absence in the second innings of Mark Wood, out with a right elbow injury that Root said would be evaluated before the second test starting in Barbados on Wednesday.
Wood’s presence might not have made much difference in the end, but it certainly did not help the cause.
“On that sort of wicket the extra bit of pace with the reverse (swing) is exactly what you want,” said Root.
The captain, one of three century-makers on the England team, heaped praise on the other two, veteran Jonny Bairstow and young Zak Crawley.
Bairstow, coming off a century in his final test in Australia, was ultra-cautious early before cutting loose later in his knock of 140 in the first innings.
“Jonny, to read the game and play that kind of innings in that situation, showed great maturity and you could see the confidence he took from the way he played in the back end of Australia,” said Root.
Crawley’s 121 in the second innings provided evidence of why England stuck with him after a long lean spell that followed a double century against Pakistan in 2020.
“(Crawley) showed a huge amount of character to stand up as one of the more senior batters now within this team,” said Root.
“It was really important he played an innings like that, more for himself, not necessarily for the rest of us (because) we know how talented he is and what he’s capable of.”