England’s draw against West Indies in the first Test is a “huge step forward” after a “difficult year”, says captain Joe Root.
Root’s side have won only one of their past 15 Test matches and were beaten 4-0 by Australia in this winter’s Ashes.
But they showed promise across the final two days in Antigua before being thwarted in their push for victory by a stubborn West Indies on Saturday.
“We showed a huge amount of character,” Root told BBC Sport.
England suffered an all-too-familiar collapse on day one as they slumped to 48-4, before Jonny Bairstow’s superb 140 helped them post 311.
After West Indies replied with 375, the tourists declared on 349-6 on day five following centuries from Zak Crawley (121) and Root (109), before the hosts reached 147-4 at the close.
England failed to pass 300 once in 10 innings in the Ashes, after which director of cricket Ashley Giles, head coach Chris Silverwood and batting coach Graham Thorpe all left their roles.
“I’m really pleased with the way we played, especially give the position we were in after that first hour,” said Root, who now has 24 Test centuries.
“The guys stayed calm and showed great maturity to get us to a total, especially off the back of a difficult winter and a difficult year where we’ve not scored anywhere near enough runs.”
On a docile pitch, England only stood an outside chance of victory on the final day, but took four wickets for eight runs either side of tea to boost their hopes, before Nkrumah Bonner and Jason Holder dug in with a stand of 80 that lasted 35.5 overs.
The tourists were limited by the absence of fast bowler Mark Wood because of an elbow injury.
“The way the guys stuck at it, especially having one bowler down as well, showed a huge amount of character and it was a huge step forward in many respects,” said Root.
“No-one stopped believing or gave up all day. We really did give ourselves the best chance of winning this game.”
Wood, who only bowled five overs on day three before sustaining the injury, is now a major doubt for the second Test in Barbados, which begins on Wednesday.
England said Wood tried to bowl in the nets before the start of day five but struggled with “acute pain”.
Ollie Robinson missed the first Test because of a back injury, but returned to training during the match, while uncapped duo Saqib Mahmood and Matthew Fisher are the other seam-bowling options in the squad.
England left out James Anderson and Stuart Broad, their top two leading wicket-takers in Tests, for this series, but neither is understood to be on the list of reserves.
“Mark will be assessed in Barbados and we’ll see how he is when we get there,” said Root.
“It’s bitterly disappointing for him because you know how much it hurts him. He’ll never let anyone down and he’s a wholehearted player.”