Joe Root was proud of the way his side had come though periods of adversity after completing a 3-1 series win over South Africa at Old Trafford on Monday (August 8).
Root’s first series as England’s Test captain ended with a convincing 177-run victory in the fourth Test at Old Trafford.
South Africa, set a mammoth 380 to win, were bowled out for 202 shortly after tea on the fourth day. Moeen Ali ended the match with two wickets in two balls, having finished off England’s 239-run third Test win at The Oval with a hat-trick.
Monday saw Moeen finish with innings figures of 5 for 69 to cap a brilliant series where he took 25 wickets in total and scored 252 runs.
Several former England captains had criticised Root’s men for a lack of application after South Africa levelled the series at 1-1 with a huge 340-run win in the second Test at Trent Bridge.
“I am really pleased with the way the series has gone,” Root told Sky Sports after England completed back-to-back series wins over South Africa for the first time since 1964. “Credit to South Africa, they put us under pressure a number of times throughout but the way our guys have responded has been exceptional. We have had to overcome a number of different challenges, but the way we have played as a unit, especially the last two games, we have been brilliant.”
Concerns remain over England’s top order batting, a problem the selectors will look to address in an upcoming three-Test series at home to the West Indies that precedes an Ashes defence in Australia later this year.
“We have got a lot of hard work to do in the future but it was a great series,” said Root. “It has been a fantastic team performance and that’s what it takes to win a series like this, everybody contributing and that’s what we have had this time around.”
South Africa checked England’s progress with a fourth-wicket stand of 123 between Hashim Amla (83) and skipper Faf du Plessis (61). But Ali then took three wickets for five runs in 11 balls, including the crucial scalp of Amla, shortly before tea and there was no way back for South Africa.
It was the end of a lengthy and unsuccessful tour for South Africa, who were also beaten by England in One-Day International (1-2) and Twenty20 International series (1-2) and suffered a hugely disappointing first-round exit in the Champions Trophy ODI tournament as well.
“England were well deserved winners of this series, they were consistently the better team,” said du Plessis. “Three months in England has been a tough time for us. At times we showed some real good fight but consistently England were just coming up with answers.
“The quality of the English bowling was superb this series, they were relentless. As a batting unit we felt we could never get on top of them and from a runs point of view we felt we didn’t do ourselves any justice.”
Ali took ten wickets in England’s 211-run win in the first Test at Lord’s and never looked back. “I feel like I got into a good rhythm after that,” said Ali. “I have done a lot of work and I have had a lot of consistency this series.”
Root was also delighted by Ali’s displays. “It was great to see Moeen in particular in this series step up and put in some unbelievable performances to win games for us.”
“The kidology seems to have worked. He (Ali) is definitely improving all the time. I said at the start of this series, it’s a great opportunity for guys in that bracket of 30-plus Test matches to stand up and become more senior,” explained Root, with Ali now having played 41 Tests. “He’s definitely taken that on and put in some brilliant performances. Hopefully it’s not just a one-off series and he can go on now and do it again and again.”
Meanwhile, Faf du Plessis, the South Africa captain, had no doubts about Ali’s quality. “He’s a real dangerous cricketer and every captain would love to have him in their team,” said du Plessis. “You often think he’s not going to take wickets on the day and then you look up and he’s got three or four, he’s just brilliant and a real dangerous batter. He’s a very good spinner and under-rated.”