Root hails 'brilliant' England after crushing win over South Africa
Port Elizabeth (South Africa) (AFP)
England captain Joe Root on Monday hailed a complete performance by his team after they beat South Africa by an innings and 53 runs on the fifth day of the third Test at St George’s Park, taking an unbeatable 2-1 lead in the four-match series.
"It was a brilliant template for us moving forward as a team," said Root.
"Big first innings runs and then we really drove the game from that point forward."
Root said the solid start by young opening batsmen Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley had laid the foundation for a double century partnership by Ben Stokes (120) and man of the match Ollie Pope which enabled England to make 499 for nine declared before bowling out South Africa for 209 and 237.
Root said Pope, whose 135 not out marked a maiden Test hundred, and fellow 22-year-old, off-spinner Dom Bess, who took the first five wickets in the first innings, had made "massive contributions".
"It’s exactly what we are after in terms of our development as a team moving forward. It fills the whole group with a massive amount of confidence."
Root said England, who lost a two-Test series to New Zealand before Christmas, were not yet the finished article.
"But we're heading in the right direction. We’ve got a group of players who are willing to learn and we're very clear on how we want to play."
England were held up by a last wicket stand of 99 between Keshav Maharaj (71) and Dane Paterson (39 not out) and it needed a direct-hit run-out by Sam Curran from mid-on to clinch the result shortly before lunch after South Africa added 135 runs in losing their last four wickets.
The partnership between Maharaj and Paterson was easily South Africa’s best of the match and showed up an otherwise poor batting performance by the hosts.
- South Africa struggle -
South African captain Faf du Plessis said being bowled out cheaply in the first innings had been a crucial factor.
"I think we are doing well as a bowling unit but from a batting point of view England are showing us how to apply yourself, how to get yourself in and how to score runs. I think that is the only difference between the teams."
It was South Africa's seventh defeat in their last eight Tests, the only exception being their win in the first Test against England when it seemed that radical changes in the team management, including the appointment of Mark Boucher as head coach, might have heralded a new dawn.
"We made huge strides in that first Test match, mostly from a confidence point of view," said Du Plessis.
"I felt like we turned a corner. I feel like we are taking a step backwards in this Test, especially from a batting point of view."
Du Plessis said he was determined that South Africa should put up a better performance in the fourth and final Test, starting in Johannesburg on Friday, which could be his final home Test appearance.
"It is one massive Test where we need everyone to be as strong as possible to try to draw the series."
But Du Plessis admitted that the loss of fast bowler Kagiso Rabada through suspension had unsettled the team.
"It's frustration," he said. "Now we go into a seriously important Test without our best bowler."
The win extended England's unbeaten run in Test series in South Africa, going back to 1999/2000 when Nasser Hussain's team were beaten by a side led by Hansie Cronje.
That series ended with England gaining a consolation win in a contrived finish to a Test in Centurion which was later revealed to have been orchestrated by Cronje in collaboration with a bookmaker.
Since then England have won two series in South Africa and shared one.
© 2020 AFP