NASSER HUSSAIN: Joe Root finally looks fully in charge of this young England team


This feels like the changing of the England guard now. Over the last 10 days of Test cricket we have seen Joe Root fully in charge of his side.

That is not to say England are better without Jimmy Anderson or other senior players. And it must be remembered it was the senior men Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes who were instrumental in the second Test win at Newlands.

A big part of any captain’s job is getting the best out of your best players, however young or old they are. It must just be easier for Root to lead this young side.

Anderson and Broad have more than 1,000 Test wickets between them, so in many ways they should run the bowling show when they are together.

And when they are both playing and Root is the captain, it is sometimes difficult to know who is in charge.

But Root has been firm with Broad in particular. One of the tricks of his captaincy is making Broad believe it’s his idea to pitch the ball up more, not Root’s and Chris Silverwood’s. The results have been magnificent.

So this is not a criticism of the Anderson-Broad axis. It was just noticeable that England’s young players seemed free to go out and express themselves, while Root appeared in charge of a team who are responding to his leadership.

It comes, of course, from winning and we have had false dawns away from home before now.

Also, England haven’t lost a Test series in South Africa for 20 years, so it will hardly be an historic achievement if Root goes on to win this one. This is probably the weakest South Africa batting line-up I have seen in those years.

But, having lost in the first Test at Centurion after losing in New Zealand, and with all England’s problems overseas, Root was under pressure, make no mistake. He has turned it round and he should take a lot of credit.

It’s not just on the back of individual performances, because Root’s decision-making in the second and third Tests has been excellent. Even on Monday I didn’t agree with those who criticised Root for bowling himself at the start of the last day.

He was England’s best bowler on the fourth day and one of the truisms of captaincy is that you start each session with your two best bowlers from the one before. So Root was not selfish to bowl himself ahead of Dom Bess.

Where he might have changed it was in going with Broad and Sam Curran or Mark Wood with the new ball, but even then you could see the sense in Root saving them for the final Test in Johannesburg that starts on Friday.

It must be so pleasing for Silverwood that his desire to put big first-innings runs on the board came off here. The coach doesn’t expect his top order to block everything. But what he does want is a return to the old-fashioned values of batting.

What this young side will do is keep older players on their toes. If anybody is getting a bit tired or grumpy, they will see the freshness and willingness to learn of the youngsters and remember how lucky they are to play for England.

With youth will come ups and downs, but suddenly the future is looking brighter for Root, Silverwood and their new England.


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