“The sky is the limit” for England after their 3-1 series win over South Africa, says captain Joe Root.
Root’s young side completed a 191-run victory in the final Test in Johannesburg on Monday.
England failed to win a Test series in 2019, losing to West Indies and New Zealand and drawing against Australia, and were 1-0 down in South Africa after losing the first Test in Centurion.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the group,” Root told BBC Sport.
“We’ve been through a lot on this tour. To come back from Centurion in the manner we have and to finish it off in style is pleasing.”
Ten England players were affected by illness before or during the first Test, while all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson and opener Rory Burns did not play again because of rib and ankle injuries respectively.
But they won by 189 runs in Cape Town and an innings and 53 runs in Port Elizabeth before sealing only their second overseas series victory since 2016 at The Wanderers.
Several young players have impressed during the series.
Dom Sibley, 24, made his maiden Test century and ended as England’s leading run-scorer with 324, sharing three successive fifty opening stands with 21-year-old Zak Crawley. Ollie Pope, 22, also scored his first Test hundred and averaged 89 in the series
Pace bowler Jofra Archer, 24, took six wickets in his only Test before being sidelined by an elbow injury, while off-spinner Dom Bess, 22, claimed his maiden five-wicket haul in his fourth Test.
“We’ve made it very clear how we want to play moving forward and the guys have bought into that,” Root said.
“We know it won’t happen overnight, and won’t necessarily be straightforward all the time, but as long as it keeps going on an upward curve, as long as we take out chances when we get them, and are always looking to push each other forward and improve, then the sky is the limit for this group.”
Coach Chris Silverwood added: “To end up where we are from where we came from – before that first Test match – to see the guys pull together and the blueprint come alive, to see a broad spectrum of people doing well, to see them pull together is very pleasing.
“Joe has led the team very well. The senior players have backed him up very well and the younger players have been full of energy and performed.”
I feel like an England player again – Wood
Fast bowler Mark Wood, who had not played a Test since February 2019, returned to take 12 wickets at less than 14 apiece in the final two Tests, winning the man-of-the-match award for figures of 5-46 and 4-54 at The Wanderers.
Wood, 30, had not played a match in any format since suffering a side strain during the World Cup final in July 2019, after which he had knee surgery.
He said he “felt like an England player again” during the fourth Test, when he also scored 35 not out and 18 batting at number 10. He finished the series with a batting average of 54.
“I have had some horrible days and dark days when I didn’t know if I would play cricket and didn’t know if I wanted it again to be honest,” Wood said.
“To have days like this means a hell of a lot and I feel incredibly proud.”
Root said: “When he has got the opportunity he has grabbed it with both hands, played with a smile on his face and given us some real energy on the field, no matter what he’s done.
“He’s a great member of the team, very well liked. He won’t shut up about his batting.”
Article courtesy of BBC Sport