England have set the template for how they want to play Test cricket by hitting a big score early that allows them to then dictate the game, captain Joe Root said after his side won the third Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth yesterday.
England scored 499-9 declared after winning the all-important toss at St George’s Park before bowling their hosts out twice to record an innings and 53-run victory.
“I thought it was a brilliant template for us moving forward as a team with big first-innings runs and we really drove the game from that point onwards,” Root said. “It was brilliant start by the openers, and then the [203-run] partnership between Ollie [Pope] and Ben Stokes, who just continued the magnificent form that he has been in from the start of the series.”
“That’s great to see, but to also see another two youngsters in this game really step up to the plate and make massive contribution is exactly what we are after at the moment in our development as a team,” he said. “It fills the whole group with massive confidence.”
Pope, 22, was hailed by Root as “smart,” while 22-year-old spinner Dom Bess, who took five wickets in the first innings, also won plaudits.
“We’ve got a really clear way of how we’re trying to play the game, everyone knows what their role is in the side and it’s about making sure that when you get your opportunity to effect the game, you go and do it,” the skipper said.
“We executed that brilliantly the last two games,” he added, as England head to the final Test in Johannesburg, which starts on Friday, with a 2-1 series lead after also winning in Cape Town.
“By no means are we the finished article, but we are heading in the right direction,” Root said. “We have a group of players who are willing to learn and we are very clear of the direction we want to take. If it continues we will continue to get the results I’m sure.”
Meanwhile, Sout Africa captain Faf du Plessis denied rumors of retirement, saying he would continue to lead the struggling team.
“There are a lot of rumors about retirement,” he said after his side’s seventh defeat in eight Test matches. “I think I have been pretty clear that I have committed myself to Cricket South Africa until the T20 World Cup [in Australia in October and November].”
“Definitely,” he said when asked whether he was under more pressure than at any other time of his career. “I’m not a robot.”
“It’s a tough time, but there’s no running away from it,” he said. “There’s no escape. I’m the leader of the team. It [pressure] comes with the job description. There was a time when it was nice and easy, and everything was going our way as a team. We had a strong team and a high success ratio. Now we are on the bottom side of that wave. We’ve got to go back to the office and work again.”
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