Ben Stokes has leapt to the defence of under-fire England Test captain Joe Root following the heavy first Test defeat to New Zealand.
The tourists were hammered by an innings and 61 runs in Mount Maunganui, leading to intense scrutiny of Root’s captaincy.
But vice-captain Stokes, England’s World Cup and Ashes hero in the summer, has launched a passionate defence of his skipper in an interview with the BBC.
"We stick together and we hold our hands up together,” Stokes said. “Joe is England's best player and he knows he has got the full support of us in the changing room."
Stokes’ words will come as a huge boost to the 28-year-old captain, who has endured a difficult 2019 by his incredibly high standards.
This year he has averaged just 29.40 across 10 tests compared to 47.35 across his entire career, a drop that has not gone unnoticed by the media. However, Stokes has refused to put the blame at Root’s door and instead looked at himself and his teammates.
"The pressures of being England Test captain are huge,” he added. “It can be one of the most criticised jobs in England at times - sometimes unfairly, I would say.
"There are 11 guys out on the field in a game who contribute to a win or loss. It doesn't all fall on the captain."
Despite Stokes’ claims Root’s international form has been poor, with the England captain scoring just 13 runs over the two innings of that first Test. In fact, since succeeding Sir Alastair Cook as Test captain his average has dropped significantly while playing for his country.
Before 2017 he averaged a remarkable 52.80, but he is scoring at an average of just 39.70 as captain of his country. He has also dropped out of the top 10 of the Test batting ranking for the first time in five years.
The first Test in New Zealand was certainly a low point, but Root will have a chance to put things right in the second Test which gets underway on Thursday in Hamilton.
A confident batting performance might help to alleviate some of the pressure on the captain ahead of the team’s return to home shores on December 4 ahead of the trip to South Africa for a four-match Test series which begins on Boxing Day.
England side who are coming under a whole heap of pressure as 2019 comes to a close and, unfortunately for Root, the captain is bearing the brunt of that criticism.