NOTTINGHAM: England captain Joe Root is determined his side don’t let up when the second Test against South Africa starts at Trent Bridge on Friday.
Root’s first match since succeeding Alastair Cook as England skipper was a personal triumph, with the 26-year-old scoring a first-innings 190 in a 211-run win in the series opener at Lord’s last week as the hosts went 1-0 up with more than a day to spare.
England, however, lost eight Tests last year and Root is wary of letting complacency creep in.
“We definitely want to make sure we make this start count,” Root told reporters at Trent Bridge on Thursday, with England looking to go an unassailable 2-0 up in this four-match series. “It’s important we set the tone with whatever we do tomorrow morning and drive that forward throughout the rest of the game.”
Root confirmed England would field an unchanged team after off-spinner Moeen Ali, who took 10 wickets on a turning pitch at Lord’s, and slow left-armer Liam Dawson helped ease the workload on his seamers.
“We’re going to go in with the same team,” Root said. “It gives us great balance if spin does come into it later in the game, we’ve got plenty of options.
“Our seamers, it might be that they play a bigger part this week, but that quite excites me. They only bowled a handful of overs in the second innings last week.”
One of those pacemen, James Anderson, did not bowl much during Thursday’s nets session, but Root insisted England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker was fully fit after struggling with groin and shoulder problems recently.
“He had a little bowl today,” Root added. “Jimmy knows his body, he’s obviously had a couple of injury issues over the course of this year and I think he’s just been smart with the way that he practises. He’s a senior player, he knows what he’s doing.”
This match will be England’s first Test at Trent Bridge since their stunning Ashes-clinching success two years ago, when Stuart Broad took a remarkable eight for 15 on his Nottinghamshire home ground as Australia were bowled out for just 60 on the first morning.
“I think Stuart’s excited to get another opportunity to bowl here on his home ground,” said Root. “We’ve played some good cricket here over the last four or five years and we want to make sure that continues this week.”
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis, meanwhile, has urged the Proteas to pass a ‘huge test of character’ in the upcoming fixture.
Du Plessis did not play the first Test at Lord’s following the birth of his first child.
“I’m really excited to be back with the team. It was tough going for us, the previous one, we weren’t as good as we would like to have been but in cricket you get another go and we’re looking forward to this Test.”
South Africa have a proud away Test record. In their past 19 series spanning some 10 years on the road, they’ve won 13, drawn five and lost just one — in India in 2015-16.
But they did not help themselves at Lord’s by twice taking wickets with no-balls and missing several chances to dismiss Root before he marked his first innings as England captain with a brilliant 190.
“It’s basics for me, there’s no point looking too much further as you can over-analyse,” said du Plessis.
South Africa did manage to reduce England to 76-4 on the first morning at Lord’s before the hosts fought back, aided by some slack fielding.
“There were times that England found themselves under pressure — the disappointing thing was just how quickly they got out of it,” said du Plessis. “When they threw a punch back at us we just sat back and let it happen, expecting something to change and it never did and that is where we let the game slip.”
ENGLAND: Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Gary Ballance, Joe Root (captain), Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Liam Dawson, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Mark Wood.
SOUTH AFRICA: Dean Elgar, Heino Kuhn, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (captain), Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, Chris Morris, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Morne Morkel.
Umpires: Simon Fry (Australia) and Paul Reiffel (Australia).
TV umpire: Sundaram Ravi (India).
Match referee: Jeff Crowe (New Zealand).
Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2017