Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 February 2020

Captain Joe Root says 'the sky's the limit' for his England side after series win in South Africa

Yorkshireman delighted with team's progress, while Proteas skipper Du Plessis admits he is sorry that retiring bowler Philander did not get the fairy tale end his career deserved

England captain Joe Root hailed the all-round contribution of his squad after they completed a 3-1 Test series victory over South Africa in Johannesburg.

After being frustrated for more than 30 overs by a 92-run partnership between Faf Du Plessis and Rassie Van Der Dussen, Root's side quickly wrapped up victory after making the breakthrough.

The home side slipped from 181-2 to 274 all out to hand England a 91-run victory with man-of-the-match Mark Wood taking 4-54 to complete match figures of 9-100.

Root said: "We're very satisfied with the victory. I'm very proud of the boys. It's taken a big effort from everyone. It's very much been a squad effort as well and we've had some wonderful support too throughout the whole trip.

"It's very exciting. There's a number of guys that have performed that played in this game, but not just that. Guys like Jofra [Archer] at the start of the series with a five-for, Dom Bess as well making a big contribution.

"It's been a real squad effort from a number of guys that are very much at the start of their international careers and that's a very promising sign when you put that against some very experienced players."

Root was delighted to see players step up and take their chance when given the opportunity with the likes of Rory Burns and James Anderson ruled out through injury early in the series.

Zak Crawley took advantage of the opportunity afforded to him by Burns' ankle injury with a maiden Test half-century that laid the foundations for England's first-innings 400 at the Wanderers.

Wood made an eye-catching return to Test cricket with 12 wickets in two Tests to help fill the gap left by Anderson's rib problem.

Root said: "When that happens it provides guys with opportunities for them to take and that's exactly what's happened on this trip.

"That's really pleasing and I think the sky's the limit for this group. I do think we're very much at the start of something and we've got to keep looking to learn, keep looking to get better and not think we're somewhere we're not.

"It's been a fantastic tour for our development as a Test team and we hope that can continue moving forward this winter."

Player of the series Ben Stokes – who scored 318 runs, including a century in Port Elizabeth, and took 10 wickets – was also delighted for his old friend and Durham teammate Wood.

"Growing up at 13/14 together, both making the same progression and playing for England together is amazing.

"Every setback he's had with injury he comes back and performs. I hope this is the start of something consistent with Woody because this side is so much better with him in it."

It was a very different story for South Africa and their captain Faf du Plessis, who admitted his side had been outplayed after winning the first Test in Centurion by 107 runs.

"We did play well in that first game. But one Test doesn't make a summer," he said, after seeing his team lose for the eighth time in their last nine Tests.

"Right through the series, England were a bit better than us in every game. You have to give the credit to them for being the better team.

"Anrich Nortje has come through shining for us. We need guys with pace to fill the shoes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

Pace is one hing, but to have control as well. Beuran came in and got five wickets, too. But from a batting point of view, we weren't at our best."

Du Plessis paid tribute to retiring Proteas seam bowler Vernon Philander who has called time on his outstanding 64-Test career.

Batting with a torn hamstring on Monday, 34-year-old Philander gloved Wood down the leg side and left to standing ovation, handshakes from England and a guard of honour from his team-mates.

"Firstly I want to thank him for his services to the Proteas over the years – not only on the field, but he's been a champion off the field," Du Plessis said.

"We're going to miss him very much. I'm sad that this game wasn't the fairy tale that he deserved."

The man himself told Sky Sports: "I've had a wonderful career at international level for South Africa. It's time to give it up for the younger guys.

"I always believe that Test cricket is the real format – it's a real test of character. We should do everything in our power to make sure it stays attractive to younger players – to keep this wonderful game alive.

Updated: January 27, 2020 09:07 PM

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