Joe Root has said sealing a Test series win in South Africa would be the biggest achievement of his England captaincy, adding: “The sky’s the limit for this team.”
England head into the fourth and final Test at the Wanderers on Friday 2-1 ahead following consecutive victories at Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. They have come back after losing the opening Test at Centurion, a match in which the tourists were badly affected by a sickness bug that affected 11 members of the squad and six support staff.
Given three key players – the opener Rory Burns, Jimmy Anderson, England’s all-time leading wicket-taker, and the spinner Jack Leach – have also been ruled out through injury or illness, winning the series during a tour even the players at one point had dubbed “cursed” would be a remarkable achievement.
Root’s best results in his first three years as Test captain have been a 3-0 series whitewash in Sri Lanka in late 2018 and a 4-1 home win against India, the world’s No 1 team, the same year. Asked if winning this series would be his biggest achievement, Root said: “I think it probably would be, because of the different things we’ve had to manage throughout this tour.
“We’ve had injuries with senior players having to fly home and a lot of illness to deal with. We have adapted to very different conditions and for a very young group of players to manage that has been very pleasing and a sign we’re doing the right things.
“If we can harness that and keep taking that forward and look to improve as a group then I do think the sky’s the limit for this team. But I do think we’re very much at the start of something and we’re not perfect by any means. We have to keep that attitude and keep driving that forward for a long period if we want to get to No 1 in the world.”
Root remained coy on team selection for the final Test. No decision has yet been made whether to pair Jofra Archer and Mark Wood in the same attack at a venue which has the reputation as having one of the quickest pitches in the world.
In his first Test appearance for 11 months, Wood took three wickets in Port Elizabeth and England are positive he will be able to play consecutive Tests for the first time since 2015.
Wood looked untroubled when he bowled during practice on Thursday. The same can be said of Archer, who has missed the past two Tests with an elbow injury but looks ready to return in Johannesburg.
“It would be nice to see how they go together,” Root said. “It would be a relentless barrage of pace, which is exciting especially on the surface you typically get at the Wanderers. It would be great to have that extra bit of firepower.”