Joe Root thanked his England team for pulling together exactly as he asked to ensure his tenure as captain got off to flying start with a wide- margin win over South Africa.
Moeen Ali finished with a match haul of 10 for 112 as England triumphed by 211 runs after 19 wickets fell in 73 overs on a decisive fourth day of the first Investec Test at Lord’s.
The all-rounder edged the man-of-the-match award ahead of Root, who hit 190 in England’s first innings.
But after his first match in charge, the captain insisted it was the response from one to 11 which was most significant – and unsurprisingly England’s management confirmed within two hours of their victory that they will retain an unchanged 12-man squad for the second Test starting at Trent Bridge on Friday.
Root will be asking them then simply to continue in the same vein in pursuit of a 2-0 lead in this four-match series.
Reflecting on England’s success at HQ, he said: “It’s a great start, and the whole team were fabulous throughout.
“Everything that was thrown at them and asked of them, they responded extremely well. I didn’t really know what to expect, but what was really pleasing was everything I asked of the lads they were very open to.”
As well as the headline acts from him and Moeen, there were first-innings 50s from Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad, four wickets from Liam Dawson and Jonny Bairstow’s half-century just when England’s second-innings collapse threatened to be costly.
They lost four wickets for 10 runs, then three for two – but still set South Africa 331 to win, and then unleashed Moeen (six for 53) to bowl the tourists out for 119.
Moeen made the most of his opportunity in very helpful conditions – and Root was gratified to see the off-spinner bowl with such confidence.
“He’s at his best when he is aggressive. He gets great shape on the ball and makes it difficult for batters to line it up,” said the skipper.
“Whenever you can get a spinner beating both sides of the bat, it’s very difficult to play against. He was outstanding.”
Root wondered if England might have let South Africa back into the match – and his opposite number Dean Elgar admitted he was beginning to fancy his team’s chances.
“I thought it was game on,” said South Africa’s stand-in captain, who will be replaced in Nottingham by Faf du Plessis – back on tour after the birth of his first child back home.
Elgar added: “Going into lunch with eight down, I really thought we’d given ourselves the best opportunity. I think that’s why it’s (so) disappointing to be sitting here after things capitulated as they did.”
South Africa did not always help themselves – twice dropping Root early in the first innings – and having two wickets chalked off for no-balls.
“I do think in Test cricket, particularly, you have to make your own luck,” said Elgar.
“We haven’t been kind to ourselves the last four days, small things, but they impacted the Test in quite a big way.
“You have to get up tomorrow morning with a smile on your face and know there is a Test in four days.”