Joe Root & Co have every reason to be proud of persevering Newlands victory
The determined approach on display in the 2nd Test against South Africa is not one that has been the template for England. Going well out of their comfort zone to earn a Test win is a commendable feat.
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Like most things, which do not come easy in five-day Test cricket, the 189-run historic Test win for England in the second Test match against South Africa in Newlands was also a grinding affair. For all the criticism, the England unit has finally shown that they do have the ability to not only compete but come out trumps in the battle of attrition.
"The way we went about it all week, we built pressure at the right time, we showed a lot of patience and character, going into that last session, to keep believing. We recognised those key moments, which we got wrong in the first Test match. For a young group of players, to learn that quickly was really pleasing.
"Once we got into a position where we were ahead of the game, and we spoke about it at the end of the last Test match, we wanted to drive it forward. We did that brilliantly. We should take that forward into the rest of the series," skipper Joe Root was chuffed to bits after the win.
Nothing came on a platter for them in Newlands; neither run scoring, nor penetration, with the pitch becoming unresponsive quite quickly.
The team must have not been pleased with their batting effort in the first innings on a pretty decent batting strip in Cape Town. Six of their top seven batsmen got starts but not even one succeeded in converting it into a three-digit score. Ollie Pope impressed the most with an unbeaten 61 but Dominic Sibley, Joe Denly, Joe Root and Jos Buttler, after getting their eye in at 30 or thereabouts, gave their wickets away needlessly.
A fighting fourth wicket partnership between Dean Elgar and Rassie van der Dussen also pushed the England bowling. But, determined spells from the workhorses James Anderson and Stuart Broad ensured that they got a sizeable first innings lead.
In Dominic Sibley, the team seems to have found a opening partner for Rory Burns who knows the art of taking the sheen off the new ball. A lot of credit has to go to Ben Stokes for blasting 72 off just 47 deliveries to save time in the Test and allow England to declare and have ample overs left in the game to successfully bowl South Africa out. But, one must remember that Stokes was able to do this because Sibley ensured that there was no batting collapse this time around.
His 311-ball marathon 133-run effort may not seem that heroic, but it was equally important to put England in a winning position. The side already has plenty of free-flowing stroke-makers in its batting line-up, but desperately needs a couple of batsmen who tire out the opposition bowlers. Their search seems to have come to a halt with Sibley's ton in Newlands.
Again, during the fourth innings, bowling close to 140 overs while keeping the intensity up at all times was no mean feat. To add to that, no England bowler lost the plot or tried to be overadventurous, but chose to stick to their plans and the results came, although after taking a bit more time than the team would have liked.
Four of England's top five bowlers James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Dominic Bess and Ben Stokes conceded runs at less than 2 RPO in the final innings, which is exceptional. It is this control that the England Test unit has been after.
It was a similar situation in the second Test against New Zealand, when the team could have made a match out of it by dismissing the Black Caps quickly in the 3rd innings. But, on another unresponsive pitch, the English bowling line-up was not able to come up with the goods and the match ultimately ended in a banal draw, with New Zealand losing just two wickets for 241.
However, through their persistence and some Stokes' magic, they were able to achieve the objective in Newlands, with the aim to keep applying consistent pressure over the opposition being fulfilled.
The road to this Test win is not something that comes naturally to England. Joe Root and company should be mighty proud of their herculean effort.
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