Alastair Cook continues to lead England from the front

Joe Root believes captain Alastair Cook is the key to England beating South Africa on home turf for the first time in over a decade.

England captain Alastair Cook.

Both batsmen limbered up for the four-Test series by posting impressive centuries on the penultimate day of their warm-up match against South Africa A, and look in good order ahead of the Boxing Day opener.

South Africa, who last lost a home series to England in 2004-05, will hardly have needed a reminder about the pair’s class, with Cook standing as the top Test run-scorer in 2015 and Root second.

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Indeed, no England captain has scored more than Cook’s current mark of 1,357 in a calendar year and only two England batsmen – Michael Vaughan and Dennis Amiss – have topped that.

And for Root, runs for Cook equal results for England.

“When he scores runs we do well, that’s as simple as it is,” said Sheffield-born Root after England ended day two in Pietermaritzburg 243 ahead.

“He leads from the front, he’s had a fantastic year as a batsman and as a captain and hopefully he can continue smashing all these records like he seems to be doing at the minute. You want him out there as long as you can.”

Root was particularly glad to pass three figures yesterday, having done so less frequently than he would have liked in the past 12 months.

“It was nice to get in that position and to go on and make sure I did get that hundred,” he added. “It was nice to get some good time out in the middle because I felt my footwork wasn’t quite right for the last week or so.”