JOE ROOT played down reports over an alleged late-night altercation between fellow Yorkshire star Jonny Bairstow and Australia opener Cameron Bancroft following England’s defeat in the first Test of the Ashes.
The captain was at pains to remain upbeat despite the disappointing end to the series opener, praising his men for an “excellent” performance over the first three days of play.
Australia finished off the visitors within little more than an hour after play resumed at The Gabba in Brisbane on Monday morning, with David Warner (87no) hailing the beginning of a “great partnership” with Ashes newcomer Bancroft (82no).
However the debutante had already hit the headlines Down Under, where reports suggested he had been headbutted by England wicketkeeper Bairstow in Perth four weeks ago.
The incident is alleged to have occurred shortly after England arrived in Australia for the series, the squad already missing key player Ben Stokes due to events off-field.
Asked about how his men were dealing with distractions from incidents away from play, Root told Channel 9: “The story over Jonny - I think a mountain’s been made out of a molehill as far as that’s concerned, we’ve just got to move on and concentrate on our cricket as a squad.”
A controversial dismissal for Moeen Ali in the second innings heralded a collapse in England’s batting that saw them lose their last five wickets for 40, finishing on 195.
Keen to highlight England’s first innings haul of 302, Root said: “We’ve prepared very well in the warm-up games, played three days of excellent cricket and it’s about making sure it’s five days next week.”
The Yorkshireman said newcomers Mark Stoneman and James Vince had put in “excellent” batting displays, adding: “To come into an Ashes series first time round away from home and play like that was exceptional and showed great temperament, great skill and great character.
“I think that bodes really well for us moving into the series and we have got to harness that and move forward as a group and hopefully turn those starts into big hundreds.”
Meanwhile Root was confident Ali, who suffered a cut to his index finger, and James Anderson, who spent time off the field on day three, will be “fine” when the series resumes in Adelaide.
He said: “One thing that stands out about our team is we have great character, and over the last year or so we’ve come back from difficult situations, from tough days like today and bounced back straight away, and that’s the mentality we’re going to have to have next week. I’ve got every confidence we’ve got the ability to do so.”
Root’s opposite number Steve Smith admitted the first Test, in which the hosts lost the toss, had been tight at times.
Highlighting a slower wicket than anticipated, he said: “We had to work really hard there, I thought the bowlers did a terrific job to get them out for 300 in the first innings.”
And hinting at the planning and preparation behind the scenes in the Australia camp, he said the hosts have clear plans for taking on the visitors.
He said: “You’ve got some quality players in that line-up and I think we’ve made our intentions pretty clear what we are going to do to the bottom end of the order as well. Fortunately that worked for us in this game.”