England had to overcome several adversities to win the series. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
England captain Joe Root believes “the sky is the limit” for his team as the tourists completed a 3-1 series victory with a 191-run win in the fourth and final Test against South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium on Monday.
Root hailed a “very special” triumph in a series in which England had to overcome several adversities. They were struck by illness at the beginning of the tour, lost the first Test and were hit by injuries.
Jack Leach, selected as their number one spinner, went home without playing a game because of illness, opening batsman Rory Burns was injured after the first Test and fast bowlers Jofra Archer and James Anderson suffered injuries in the first and second Tests which put them out of the series.
“If you look at where we were after that first game, to pick ourselves up and play the way we have in the last three games is really pleasing,” said Joe Root. “It has taken a big effort from everyone and it was very much a squad effort.”
Root praised the way young players had stepped up and taken their opportunities. “I do think we are at the start of something,” he said.
“We’ve got to keep looking to learn and keep getting better but it’s been a fantastic tour for us as a Test team. It’s been a real squad effort with a number of guys who are at the start of their international careers.” “I think the sky is the limit for us right now,” he added.
England encountered some stiff resistance from South Africa on Monday before winning with a day to spare.
Set to make a world record 466 to win, South Africa reached 181 for two shortly before tea on a hot afternoon before man of the series Ben Stokes and man of the match Mark Wood combined for a double strike, dismissing South African captain Faf du Plessis for 35 and Rassie van der Dussen for 98. The pair had shared a partnership of 92.
Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma shone briefly after tea but South Africa were bowled out for 274. Wood finished the innings with four wickets for 54 runs. He had match figures of nine for 100.
Du Plessis said England deserved their win. “We said after the first Test that one Test doesn’t make a summer. After that England were just a little bit better than us in every game in every department.”
Stokes was the outstanding player in the series, changing the course of the match with both bat and ball in the second Test in Cape Town, hitting a century in the third Test in Port Elizabeth and making crucial breakthroughs with the ball in both innings in Johannesburg.
It was his second successive man of the series award in South Africa, having achieved the accolade four years ago. “Playing against South Africa is always such a competitive series. I really enjoy the competition,” he said.
Stokes’ father Ged remains in hospital after suffering a serious illness before the first Test. “I hope the old man is watching this in his hospital bed with a smile on his face,” said Stokes.
South African fast bowler Vernon Philander finished his Test career on a low note. He took two wickets in the first innings but only bowled nine balls in the second innings before leaving the field with a hamstring injury. He batted in the final innings but was out for 10.
But Du Plessis paid tribute to a “tremendous achiever and a champion guy off the field as well”.
Philander took 224 wickets in 64 Tests at an average of 22.32. Asked how he would like to be remembered, he said: “As someone who always gave it my all.”