England have struggled at Test cricket recently and last year’s Ashes series was no different. They ending up drawing the series which meant Australia retained the Ashes but there were some disappointing performances by the World Cup winners.
Since then they have been on a tour of New Zealand which ended in a 1-0 win for the hosts.
England really needed to dig deep and start establishing themselves as a good test side with a mix-up in personnel being key.
For the first Test against South Africa, Jonny Bairstow was brought back in to the side;however, this was more to shore up the side following an illness that had effected much of the squad. Unsurprisingly, England were poor and the Proteas beat them on the fourth day, bowling them out for 268 with a target on 376.
This led to a lot of criticism being directed at the selectors and in particular captain Joe Root.
Many questioned whether Root was still the right man to captain England’s Test side. For the second test, disaster struck before it had even started. Opening batsman Rory Burns got injured in the warm up playing football and was sent home for an ankle operation.
That led to the introduction of James Anderson, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope and Dom Bess. This seemed to have the desired effect as England, against all the odds, actually went on to win by 438 runs.
Now with a win behind them they went into the third match with a bit of confidence. Unfortunately injury had once again gotten the better of Jimmy Anderson and he was replaced by Mark Wood who had just returned from a similar rib ailment.
The tourists got off to a great start and declared on 499/9 with Ben Stokes hitting 120 and Ollie Pope bagging a maiden Test century, finishing on 135 not out. This felt like a real turning point for England. Their openers hadn’t given away cheap wickets and their middle order actually stuck around for a while.
Root’s side were fantastic in South Africa’s first innings and got them all out for 209. Spinner Dom Bess took five wickets of his own whilst Stuart Broad added two more. England enforced the follow on and wasted no time.
This time though there was an unlikely bowling hero in Joe Root. The captain took four wickets while Mark Wood earned three more. South Africa were all out for 237 and Ollie Pope was named Man Of The Match for his impressive century as well as taking six catches.
This felt like a new England side, and one that can go on and climb up the rankings from their lowly fifth place position. They still have one more Test against South Africa, in which they’ll be favourites for, especially with Rabada being suspended.