England eye first home series win over South Africa since 1998

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England eye first home series win over South Africa since 1998
England walks off after winning the first Test of the series against South Africa - REUTERS
Shukriya Pakistan

The contrast between Joe Root and the returning Faf du Plessis could not be starker as the respective captains of England and South Africa head for Trent Bridge for the second test starting on Friday.

Root delivered a captain’s innings in his opening game in charge to lay the foundations for a 211-run victory on Sunday and quash inevitable suggestions that extra responsibility might affect his own form.

As he looks to turn the screw in the second test, his only problem is whether to retain two spinners at a ground which traditionally favours seamers.

While Root will bat away suggestions aired by former England captain Geoffrey Boycott that his side should secure a four-test whitewash, England are well-placed to inflict their first home series victory on South Africa since 1998.

Even the welcome return for the tourists of Du Plessis may not be enough to change the series dynamic established at Lord’s, particularly with seamer Kagiso Rabada suspended for Trent Bridge, a ground where he could probably have thrived.

Mistake compounded mistake for South Africa in the first test, with Root and Bairstow both dropped off catchable chances, poor judgement exercised on reviews and potential wickets lost to no-balls.

Moreover, the BBC’s respected correspondent Jonathan Agnew said South Africa’s fielding drill ahead of the start was the worst he had witnessed in watching hundreds of test matches, and labelled their final batting collapse “embarrassing.”

All of which combined to give Root the gentlest introduction to test captaincy. The regular clatter of South African wickets obviated any difficult decisions about bowling changes, and England’s own second-innings collapse even ensured he was not tested on when to make a declaration.

England’s two contestable selections, Gary Ballance and Liam Dawson, are again included in the 12 for the second test and, with hot weather set to continue and 14 wickets falling to England spinners at Lord’s, Root will be tempted to go with his winning team.

Veteran paceman Jimmy Anderson always thrives at Trent Bridge, taking 53 wickets in his eight tests including seven when he last faced South Africa there in 2003. Stuart Broad is almost as prolific on his own ground and memorably took 8-15 against Australia on his last run out in 2015.

South Africa will make at least two changes, with the out-of-form JP Duminy possibly making way for the returning Du Plessis and Chris Morris or Duanne Olivier tipped to replace Rabada. There was more bad news on Monday when coach Russell Domingo returned home after the death of his mother.

(This story has been refiled to make penultimate paragraph read “…at Trent Bridge…”, instead of “…at Lord’s…”)

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