The England cricket team surged to a 191-run victory in the fourth Test against South Africa to complete a 3-1 series victory. Notably, this is only their second overseas success in four years. But skipper Joe Root will take heart from the win and can usher his side in a new era of dominance in Test cricket from here on.
After setting the Proteas an unlikely 466 to win, the tourists were frustrated by a gritty 98 from Rassie van der Dussen, who added a 92-run stand with skipper Faf du Plessis. However, they were dismissed in successive overs by Ben Stokes and Mark Wood just before tea to leave South Africa reeling at 187-4. After the break, Stuart Broad picked two scalps.
The final collapse of 4/14 saw South Africa manage 274 all out. Pacer Chris Wood took the last wicket to end with 4/54 in the innings and nine in the match. It was a fitting end to the Test series and the manner in which England dominated the show was laudable.
The Test series win gives England three wins on a tour of South Africa for the first time since 1913-14. The Three Lions have won three successive Test series against the Proteas. Also, what it did was to give England the confidence and the character that they can battle issues and injuries and fulfill the potential on offer.
For South Africa, the misery continued and they need a big change of plans and a clear vision going forward. In this article, we look at the seven major takeaways and records in the South Africa-England Test series.
Test Championship: Cushion for England, dreams over for South Africa
Joe Root’s England closed the gap on second-placed Australia in the ICC World Test Championship. There were 120 points on offer in the series. The visitors gained 90 points after claiming three wins. England are now placed third in the Test Championship table and have 146 points.
They will aim to fare better on the two-Test tour of Sri Lanka in March 2020 next. England are also unbeaten in the Championship after drawing the Ashes 2019 2-2 and now winning this Test series 3-1.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s problems continued. After losing 0-3 against India in October 2019, the Proteas picked just 30 points from the solitary win in the Test series. However, six points were deducted for slow over-rate and that means they have only 24 on board. They were also fined 60 percent of their match fee. SA are currently seventh in the nine-team table.
England find a new solid opening pair
The injury to opener Rory Burns ahead of the second Test, saw England suffer a huge setback. The batsman injured his left ankle while playing a football match during the warm-up before a practice session. Scans revealed that he sustained ligament damage to his left ankle. He is also set to miss the Sri Lanka series.
On the contrary, the injury to Burns opened the door for Zak Crawley to come in. The talented 21-year-old batsman, who had earlier made his debut against New Zealand, offered substance. Crawley and Dominic Sibley impressed as a pair atop for England. They did not have the best of starts, however, the two put on partnerships worth 70, 107 and 56 across the final two matches.
That was a sense of comfort for England. These two can be the trusted force with time after showing immense composure at the top. Sibley played well and contributed with a match-winning knock of 133* in the second Test match.
England boasts of variety in a bowling attack
England saw Jofra Archer play just one Test as he was ruled out with an injury. The principle bowler claimed six wickets in that game. Veteran James Anderson ended up with two Tests. The injuries to two main stalwarts can hurt any team. However, England responded with the other pacers standing up.
Stuart Broad continued his magic and claimed 14 wickets at 19.42. He now has 485 career Test scalps and is 15 away from the mark of 500. Wood featured in just two Tests and ended up with 12 scalps at 13.58. The likes of Sam Curran and Ben Stokes claimed 10 scalps apiece.
Spinner Dominic Bess featured in two Tests and got eight wickets. Overall, the numbers suggest that England’s variety can be a main cause of their success. This is a positive sign for Root’s side.
South Africa shows no teeth in batting, lose heavily
The major issue for South Africa was the batting. Nobody went on to get a hundred in the series which is a big statement of worry. Only four scores of 80-plus in a long Test series isn’t good enough for any team. This also lead to lack of partnerships and the side scoring poorly across the Tests.
The only bright spot was Quinton de Kock, who ended up as the highest run-scorer in the series (380) at 47.50. He scored four fifties with a best of 96. The next best was Dussen (274) at 34.25. Skipper Faf du Plessis managed just 151 runs at a dismal average of 18.87. These are poor numbers for a side with no authority and steel.
In contrast, three England players ended up with 300-plus runs in the series. Collectively, England showed more composure and got big totals. SA’s highest score in the series was 284. For a team that didn’t even manage to hit 300, was always going to suffer.
South Africa need time, sky is the limit for England
The major takeaway for South Africa is that the side needs plenty of time in this rebuilding phase. Skipper Faf pointed out the same and said in a press conference that there is lack of experience in ranks. “That’s the reality of where we sit. We’ve put some good things in place with the strong, experienced coaching team. We know that, through time, they will guide players. But the experience we are lacking now will also take time.”
SA fielded as many five debutants in the four-match Test series with a new-look bowling attack. That tells you a story.
On the other hand, for England, they can build on the same. England fought back strongly and that was the sort of spirit you need to win in the longest format. “I couldn’t be more proud of the group,” Root told BBC Sport. “We’ve been through a lot on this tour. To come back from Centurion in the manner we have and to finish it off in style is pleasing.”
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