Manchester: Joe Root said he was “bitterly disappointed” after England slipped to defeat in the fourth Test against Australia on Sunday despite a defiant effort to keep their Ashes dream alive.
England, set a huge target of 383 to win at Old Trafford, were bowled out for 197 following some spirited lower-order defiance.
Victory left Australia 2-1 up in the five-Test series ahead of next week’s finale at the Oval.
“I’m bitterly disappointed,” England captain Root told BBC Radio. “I thought the way we fought today, the character we showed, every single one of them can be proud of that today.
“To come so close to taking it to the Oval is hard to take. We’ve still got to look forward and make sure we level the series.
“I think it’s been a good Test wicket, an important toss to win, and we were not quite at our best in the first innings. We fought hard and bravely throughout the game, but we’re in the position we are now.”
Root hailed Steve Smith, who has scored an astonishing 671 runs at 134.2 including three hundreds in the series despite missing England’s one-wicket win in the third Test at Headingley with concussion.
“Steve Smith has played very well,” he said. “He’s a world-class player. You need to take any chance you get at him early. The first Test is probably the difference between the two sides.
“They’ve bowled well. I think the way we went about our business today was impressive. The guys will take a lot from that.
“You learn a lot about your team and players in situations like this and we stood up to the challenge and fought bravely.”
England, who resumed the day on 18-2, were bowled out for 197 on the final day with Australia seamer Pat Cummins taking four for 43.
Australia’s victory, with 81 balls remaining, was a convincing one but England’s spirit cannot be criticised as they fought until the final hour in their attempt to save the Test and keep the series alive.
Steve Smith, whose magnificent double century and then second innings 82 were a major factor in this win, was delighted. “It feels amazing to know the urn is coming home. I’ve been here a few times when things haven’t gone our way. This was always one to tick off my bucket list. It’s extremely satisfying,” he said.
The main early resistance from England came from Joe Denly, who made 53 from 123 balls, and Jos Buttler, who lasted 111 balls for his 34.
England’s hopes of an unlikely escape-act rose when Jack Leach and Craig Overton batted for over an hour giving the crowd belief over a second ‘miracle’ after the comeback win at Headingley.
But part-time leg spinner Marnus Labuschagne finally removed Leach, with a ball that turned sharply in the rough and was gloved to Matthew Wade at short leg.
Overton batted with sense, stoicism and a strong technique, but he was trapped lbw by Josh Hazlewood to set off the Australian celebrations.
“I didn’t think it would be this emotional,” said Australia captain Tim Paine.
“The amount of work that’s gone in to retain the Ashes has been enormous and I’m really proud of this group and how we bounced back from Headingley,” he added.