England vice-captain Joe Root feels England could have been better on day one at Centurion, but is hopeful of restricting the Proteas to under 400.
Judging from England’s recent form in dead rubbers, they weren’t expected to be as motivated as usual in the fourth Test having already wrapped up the series.
They’ve lost their last three and haven’t won since 2011, and it appeared that that run might continue as the Proteas were, at one stage, on 237-1. While the hosts will be pleased with the 329-5 going into day two, England will be relieved that they found some fight in them in a final session that saw them take four wickets.
‘It was a good pitch, but if we’re being really honest, we weren’t at our absolute best as we have been through much of the series and that can happen sometimes in Test cricket,’ said Root.
‘I think the way we came back and the way we approached that last session was a really good effort from all the guys. Now having taken those wickets, hopefully we can do something similar in the morning and if we can bowl them out for under 400 on what looks like a good wicket, we’re right in the game.’
Root admitted the game plan didn’t change too much as they went into that final session, leaving the senior players in the side to keep plugging away.
‘We’ve got a very experienced attack so they know what they’re doing out there. You’ve just got to make sure you keep putting the effort in, and the guys were trying really hard, but sometimes it just doesn’t go for you. It was just really important that the guys in the field were backing the guys with the ball. It was a great effort for the last couple hours and that’s the benchmark in the morning session.’
One highlight for the English on day one was James Taylor’s catch at short leg to remove Dean Elgar – the third catch to have left an impression in that position from him in this series.
‘I’ve spent a bit of time in that position and it’s not always the best position to be in,’ admitted Root. ‘It was a phenomenal bit of work … the way he [Taylor] followed him [Elgar] down the wicket. There was a bit of luck involved as well, but he’s taken some ridiculous catches already. He deserves all the credit because it’s not a nice place to field.’