We can beat them’: Silverwood talks up England’s Ashes bid after Australia wilt

Chris Silverwood has hailed Joe Root’s ever-improving captaincy as England take aim at a fifth successive away Test victory, and admits he is already relishing the Ashes following Australia’s series defeat against India.

India pulled off a spectacular victory at the Gabba on Tuesday to clinch the series and Silverwood, when asked about Australia, said it is “always nice to see the opposition under pressure”.

England will be focused on regaining the Ashes this year and Silverwood is excited by the prospect. “It shows that if we do the basics well and get stuck in, we can beat them,” the head coach said.

Before that they will aim to win their fifth successive away Test, a feat they have not achieved in more than a century, in the second meeting with Sri Lanka in Galle on Friday. It will be another instalment in what Silverwood expects to be a thrilling year of long-form cricket.

England’s last such sequence of success was achieved in Australia and South Africa between the start of 1912 and the end of 1913 and their current run of four successive wins, which started in South Africa last January, is better than anything they have managed since 1957. In their past three away Tests England’s first-innings totals have been 499 for 9 dec, 400 and 421.

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“It’s not rocket science,” Silverwood said of these achievements. “It’s exactly what I stated when I first came into the job: big first-innings runs, put the opposition under pressure with skilful bowling. With the ball, we’ve been relentless. We’ve got variation in the attack. It’s just becoming really, really good at doing the basics well and implementing the plans that we put in place.”

Root has won 24 of his 45 matches as Test captain. Only Michael Vaughan has won more games (26 out of 51) and only two people who have captained England more than seven times can better Root’s win percentage (Mike Brearley won 18 of 31 matches between 1977 and 1981, and the other is WG Grace). “He’s not far off becoming the most successful captain that England’s had,” Silverwood said.

“The way he manages the bowlers on the park now, the way he speaks in the huddle, the way he addresses the players, he’s grown in every area. Tactically, he is learning how to use his bowlers every day, he talks a lot about it, he talks to the bowlers. They have plans and he works with them.”

Many squad members watched the thrilling end to India’s series in Australia and with England facing India first away – India have announced their squad for the first two Tests next month, recalling Virat Kohli, Ishant Sharma and Hardik Pandya – and then at home before they head to Australia for the Ashes, 2021 could be a standout year for Test cricket.

“Look at what we’ve got in front of us – what is it, nine Tests against India? What a fantastic way to prepare to go to the Ashes,” said Silverwood. “There’ll be some great cricket, it’s a great position for our players to go out and show off their skills, and it’s really exciting.”

Silverwood said England are likely to rotate their squad for the Test starting on Friday, with Jimmy Anderson set to come in, Chris Woakes available and Olly Stone in with a chance of selection, but Moeen Ali is unlikely to be ready after his positive Covid test.