Joe Root was forced to settle for a stalemate in England’s first Test since the Ashes but felt his side’s positivity and purpose against the West Indies represented real progress.
The last time England shook hands on a draw was back in Sydney two months ago, clinging on by the skin of their teeth to narrowly avert a whitewash.
In Antigua it was Root pressing for victory, declaring 285 ahead after following Jonny Bairstow and Zak Crawley to a century.
Hunting 10 wickets on a pitch that had gone to sleep, England took four in a rush either side of tea before the redoubtable Nkrumah Bonner, who faced 493 deliveries in the match, and old foe Jason Holder closed the door.
Coming off the back of a troubled winter which saw sweeping changes in the coaching staff and playing group, Root was pleased to be back on the front foot.
“We want to win Test matches. It’s been a lean year, a lean tour of Australia and this was a chance to get back on track, to go for it,” said Root.
“I’m really proud of this team. I thought the attitude throughout the whole week was just fantastic. It’s filled me with a huge amount of confidence. We threw everything into the game and to be in the position we were is a really pleasing performance on what turned out to be a very docile wicket.
“They never stopped believing and that’s what we want to encourage in this team.
“We want to keep believing, keep fighting and show the supporters that have come out to watch here that we’re desperate to get some wins under our belt.
“I really hope the guys gain so much confidence from this. We’re very buoyant, we created pressure in the field. Over time stuff like that can make a real difference to a team.”
Root’s declaration gambit was a slightly more ambitious call than many expected, leaving his side 71 overs to try and push for a result.
It might have paid off had Mark Wood been fit to add an extra element of pace to the bowling group , but his worrying elbow injury denied the tourists their most ferocious option. His prospects look bleak for next week’s second Test in Barbados but the good news for England was the sight of Ben Stokes picking up the slack.
Initially slated to bowl no more than a handful of overs due to his recent side strain, he got through 40 in the match and proved a constant challenge. More importantly, he did not aggravate his own injury.
“We were trying to win a Test match – trying to tell Ben Stokes not to bowl was very difficult,” said Root.
On Wood, he added: “I think we’re going to wait and do all the scans and stuff over in Barbados. So we’ll have some more information then.”
The teams travel on Sunday with the next match beginning in Bridgetown on Wednesday.