JOE ROOT hailed his young England side for a mature Test match performance as they routed South Africa by an innings and 53 runs in Port Elizabeth.
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England’s final-day victory did not come close to matching the tension of their previous win in Cape Town, with the result in no real doubt despite a 99-run stand for the final wicket.
But it did represent a considerable step forward for a side who have too often had to scramble for their successes.
Having won the toss, they piled on a big first innings of 499-9dec and hunted as a group to dismiss the Proteas for 209 and 237.
It is a blueprint for how Root and head coach Chris Silverwood want their team to go about their business in the five-day game and was achieved with five players aged 24 or younger: Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Sam Curran and Dom Bess.
This was a brilliant template for us moving forward as a team: we made big first-innings runs and then really drove the game from that point onwardsJoe Root
Having seen Sibley score a maiden century at Newlands, there were two fresh landmark performances here, with Pope making an unbeaten 135 as well as taking six close catches and Bess picking up his maiden five-wicket haul in the first innings.
“I thought this was a brilliant template for us moving forward as a team: we made big first-innings runs and then really drove the game from that point onwards,” said Root.
“Seeing another two youngsters really step up to the plate and make massive contributions is exactly what we’re after at the minute in terms of our development as a team, and fills the whole group with huge amounts of confidence.
“We are really clear about how we want to play moving forward and everyone has really bought into that. When you have a group of players working towards something collectively you have got a really good chance of making it happen.
“There’s going to be bumps in the road and we’re going to get it wrong on occasions. We’re very much at the start of the journey.
“But as long as the group is willing to learn and put it in time and time again - doing the things that aren’t necessarily the most flattering, the difficult things to do in Test cricket - then we’ll be fine.”