Joe Root, the England Test captain, looked back on a home summer during which his team came back from behind to draw against Pakistan and then win 4-1 against India with no little satisfaction.
England had already sealed a well-fought series against the No.1 side on the MRF Tyres ICC Test Team Rankings in the fourth game in Southampton. But, they didn’t let the intensity drop at The Oval, the 118-run win – when all results were possible at tea on the final day – giving Alastair Cook a perfect farewell.
Root hoped the team would take confidence from recent results when they head to Sri Lanka next, and continue their improvement, after a disappointing winter, which saw them slip to seventh in the rankings.
"I think we are on an upward curve,” he said on Tuesday, 11 September, after the match. “I do think we've shown a lot of improvement this summer. When we've had tough days and tough games, we've responded well to that.
“This winter is going to pose a lot of different challenges to playing in these conditions but that presents a great opportunity for us to show some growth as a team and show a bit of consistency as the one-day group has."
If we can continue with the same attitude and drive and determination, then we've got every chance of getting right to the top
England have tended to do poorly in dead-rubbers in recent times, and Root saw their win in the final Test as a step towards correcting an unwanted record.
“It’s huge for the group,” he said. “It’s a measure of where we are as a side. Having already won the series, it's something we've got wrong in the past.
“Hopefully, now, we can kick on from this … We know where we want to get to, there’s a lot of hard work ahead and that we are not the perfect side, but if we can continue with the same attitude and drive and determination, then we've got every chance of getting right to the top."
Apart from the result, England had much to celebrate during an emotional week. Cook got his fairy-tale farewell, James Anderson surpassed Glenn McGrath as the pacer with most Test wickets, and Root himself got a much-awaited century, after going 15 matches without one.
“I had a great driver in trying to stay out there with Cook for as long as possible, knowing that it’ll be the last opportunity to do so,” he said. “It was an important innings for me personally … to get past the hundred, it felt like forever really!
“To finally get it was a huge amount of relief for me personally and to get it with Cooky there at the other end, made it extremely special and it’s a day I’ll savour for a long time.”