Joe Root has thanked his England team for pulling together exactly as he asked in his first Test in charge at Lord’s – and reminded them he wants the same thing in Nottingham.
Moeen Ali finished with a match haul of ten for 112 against South Africa as England triumphed by 211 runs after 19 wickets fell in less than 73 overs on a decisive fourth day of the first Investec Test.
The all-rounder therefore edged the man-of-the-match award ahead of Root himself, who hit a first-innings 190.
But after his successful captaincy debut, Root insisted it was the response from one to 11 which was most significant – and unsurprisingly therefore, England’s management confirmed within two hours of their victory that they will retain an unchanged 12-man squad for 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 by Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad, four wickets for Liam Dawson and Jonny Bairstow’s half-century just when England’s second-innings collapse threatened to be costly.
They lost four wickets for ten runs, then three for two – but still set South Africa 331 to win, and then unleashed Moeen, pictured, (six for 53) to bowl the tourists out for 119.
“Everyone played their part, and stood up at certain times,” added Root.
“It might not have been a ‘six-for’ or a 50, but there were some crucial periods where guys showed a lot of character and were very proactive in the way they went about it, read the situation well.”
It was just what he had asked for before a ball was bowled.
“All I said was I want us to try to be quite proactive, stay ahead of the game when those opportunities come, take responsibility if you’re in a position to do so,” Root said.
“I think everyone at certain points did that.
“I think it’s really important we continue to do that if we’re going to take this side forward.”
Root wondered if England’s two collapses 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 last week.
“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.”
Meanwhile, South Africa coach Russell Domingo has returned to South Africa after his mother’s condition worsened in hospital, following the injuries she suffered in a recent car crash.