Root happy with England character despite Centurion defeat

By Christopher Devine 29 December 2019
Root happy with England character despite Centurion defeat

England were unable to avoid defeat in the first Test against South Africa, but Joe Root was proud of the character his illness-ridden side showed at Centurion.

Root was among a host of players and backroom staff in the England camp to be hampered by a sickness bug either before or during the series opener.

After collapsing from 142-3 to 181 all out in their first innings, the tourists threatened to pull off an unlikely chase of 376 for victory as Rory Burns (84) and Root (48) dug in, but England were ultimately dismissed for 268 on day four.

"It's been a really tough week off the field - pretty much everything has been thrown at the group," said England's skipper at the post-match presentation.

"We had 10 guys go down ill throughout the week or in the build-up to the week. And I think credit to everyone, they stood up, tried to put in the best performance possible and at no stage have they let anyone down.

"I think pretty much everyone has been ill now, so hopefully that's out the way ... and we can all prepare extremely well and bounce back strong."

Root insisted his team believed they could pull off a similar chase to the one they managed in this year's third Ashes Test at Headingley, where Ben Stokes' sensational 135 underpinned a successful pursuit of 359 against Australia.

"It's not been long since we've seen similar chases from a very similar group of players," Root added. "We got ourselves in a position, even at lunch with me and Ben there. It was pretty much the same equation as it was at Headingley a few months back.

"So we were fully confident we could chase those runs down. We just knew it was going to take one or two reasonable partnerships and we needed to negotiate the new ball very well."

England's decision to bowl first at the toss was questioned after South Africa recovered from 111-5 to post 284 at the start of the contest, but Root said: "I still believe it was a 50-50 call.

"You get a side 111-5 and you really think you've got ahead of the game. So maybe a slight opportunity missed there as well but ultimately you have to give credit to South Africa. I thought they played very well."

Addressing England's own first-innings collapse, Root added: "I think that was where the game was won and lost. It's really disappointing but in the same sense it's really pleasing to see us very quickly put in a better performance [with the bat] in the second innings."

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