While India’s Virat Kohli talked up the contribution of his newer players, Joe Root admitted his charges have a way to go yet There was a weary inevitability about the last day of the series. England 10 for one, 10 for two, 20 for three, 30 for four, the wickets dropping like tired eyelids, loss washing over them like sleep falling on an exhausted man. It leaves their winter split neatly in two: three handsome victories – two in Sri Lanka by seven wickets and then six wickets, and one in India by 227 runs – followed by three ugly defeats by, respectively, 317 runs, 10 wickets, and an innings and 25 runs. Joe Root argued insistently that the bad should not eclipse the good, like Sri Lanka’s Akila Dananjaya talking up the hat-trick he took in a T20 against the West Indies on Wednesday at the expense of the fact Kieron Pollard hit him for six sixes in his very next over. “We have to look at the winter as a whole,” Root said. “There have been three very good performances when the ball has spun and we’ve dealt with it better”. But all of them are coloured, now, by the three very poor performances when it spun more and they didn’t. The watershed between them coincided with the turn in Root’s own run of form, from 684 runs at an average of 114 in his first half-dozen innings to 110 at an average of 18 in the second. And while he was quick to say that he was disappointed he hadn’t been able to carry on like in those first three matches, the real problem was that England’s fortunes were bound so tightly to his batting. Because without Root, there was not a lot left to fall back on. After he was dismissed in the first innings of the first Test of this series, England’s batsmen only made three fifties in 82 innings between them: one from Ben Stokes, one from Zak Crawley and one, at the very dog end, from Dan Lawrence, the last man out in this final innings. None of those three batsmen managed to press on past 55. Worse, the team didn’t manage a single fifty partnership in those seven innings either, their best the 48 Stokes put on with Jonny Bairstow on the first day of this last Test. In that same time, India made 10 fifty-plus scores, three of them hundreds, and shared eight fifty-run stands. The series turned into one long vivisection of England’s batting, their techniques clinically dissected by Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel, who took 59 wickets between them at a cost of 12 runs apiece. Which brings us around to England’s other glaring weakness, the lack of a spinner to back up Jack Leach, who proved himself a tough, artful and cunning sort of bowler. Leach finished the series with 18 wickets but not a central contract, or the voluble support of his skipper who was asked whether he had earned the right to be considered the first-choice spinner and said instead that, as well as he had bowled, it was a question to ask again at the start of the summer. England’s Jack Leach, left, finished the series with 18 wickets. Photograph: Aijaz Rahi/AP Still, Leach played his part. So did a lot of the senior players. Root and Jimmy Anderson were superb. Stokes, not at his best with the bat, still gave everything and played a characteristically heroic turn in this last match. Moeen Ali, who has drifted out into the fringes of the squad, played well in his only game, which was more than Stuart Broad did in the one game they gave him this series. Broad had bowled so very well in Sri Lanka, but the rotation policy England used in India didn’t benefit him at all, any more than the rest policy worked out for Bairstow. He left his form somewhere back in Yorkshire. It has been two and a half years since Bairstow made his last century, and after the way he played in these last two Tests, he may not get another chance. Square them up with India’s senior players, and they don’t lose too much in the comparison. Ashwin and Rohit Sharma aside, India’s old hands, did not get on so very well themselves: Virat Kohli finished the series with 172 runs, Cheteshawar Pujara with 133, Ajinkya Rahane with 112. That meant the sharpest contrast was between the young players on either side. Kohli was able to talk in glowing terms about how pleased he was with Patel, Washington Sundar and Mohammed Siraj, who have only played 12 Tests between them, as well as Rishabh Pant, who has played 20 and is just beginning to blossom into the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the world. The Spin: sign up and get our weekly cricket email. Root, on the other hand, was left explaining how much his young players have to learn. And there were signs that they are. Ollie Pope, who seems to have been given tenure at No 6, started to get his feet moving as the tour went on. Lawrence, given a second chance at No 7, showed plenty in his two innings here that was hidden when he was pushed up the order to No3 in earlier in the series. Dom Sibley made strides too, after having such a torrid time in Sri Lanka. But really, the fact that they, and Bess and Crawley, are doing so much learning on the job speaks to a systemic failing in English cricket. Root touched on that himself. He said he thinks the problem is we need to encourage more draws in the county championship so that young batsmen have more experience playing long innings under scoreboard pressure. That is an interesting theory, one which the cleverclogs at the ECB can mull over while they’re enjoying The Hundred.