England captain Joe Root resorted to superstition when talking about his selection dilemma ahead of the second Test at Newlands in Cape Town. DANIEL GALLAN reports.
‘Touch wood,’ Root said, knocking the table in front of him when speaking of the health and fitness of his players.
After a challenging start to the tour, during which as many as 11 players were struck low by illness and several more struggled with niggles and bangs, Root has just about a full squad to choose from.
Just about. Fast bowler Jofra Archer has sustained an injury to his right elbow and his involvement in the Test is uncertain. If unavailable, Archer’s omission would constitute a disappointing loss to Root’s attack.
‘Look at his short career, he’s had a big impact on big Test matches for us,’ Root said of his spearhead. ‘It will be a loss if he doesn’t play but it would create opportunities for whoever comes in.’
That man will likely be spinner Dominic Bess with just two Test caps to his name. England’s decision to field an all-seam attack – barring Root’s part-timers – at Centurion backfired as they struggled to control the tempo of the game.
The pitch at Newlands has shown signs that it will be a batting paradise with ground staff already trying to prevent it from drying out.
But the inclusion of spin is not the only conundrum weighing on Root’s mind.
‘Everything is on the table as it stands,’ Root said of his team’s makeup. ‘We will make a decision once we see the surface tomorrow. We just have to make sure everyone is up for it.’
Root also spoke of his frustration on tour so far. The squad has been beset by poor health off the field while a lack of ruthlessness on it let South Africa escape from a precarious position of 111-5 in the first innings of the Test at Centurion.
‘We spoke honestly after the game and it was good that there was emotion involved,’ said Root. ‘It wasn’t a Alex Ferguson hairdryer treatment but it was a good conversation.
‘We have to learn to make strong positions count. When our backs are up against it we come out fighting. Our challenge is that once we get in that position, we make it count.’