England convincingly beat the Proteas by 211 runs thanks largely to the new skipper and Moeen Ali.
Ahead of the 2017 Test series against South Africa, the spotlight was firmly on new England captain Joe Root.
Five months since he was announced as Alastair Cook’s successor, the 26-year old has had plenty of time to prepare for the role and the challenges that come with it. His first opponents South Africa may not be the force they were a few years ago, but their record on these shores speaks volumes.
The Proteas’ last defeat at the ‘Home of Cricket’ came in 1960, and they haven’t lost a Test series in England since 1998.
So when England recorded an comprehensive 211-run victory with a day to spare on Sunday, it looked as if Root had got all of his decisions correct.
But one could easily forget how South Africa helped the new captain find his feet with some clumsy fielding and lacklustre batting.
Dropped catches, lazy bowling and wasteful with the bat, South Africa’s downfall was a painful message to Du Plessis to rescue them. Their second innings total of 119-all out was a sorrow viewing in particular.
But this Test could have gone a lot differently had it not been for Root himself. Had the England captain not taken England’s first innings by the scruff of the neck with that all-important 190, then the hosts may well have ended 100-runs short of a respectable score.
Once he was out on the crease, he was able to relax and play his game. Unlike Alastair Cook during the back-end of his captaincy, Root’s batting didn’t seem to have been affected by the added pressure of leading the team.
However, he had plenty more to think about during his second innings. Declarations and which bowling attack to use when South Africa chase would have been firmly on his mind as he stepped out of the pavilion to bat. He only scored five runs before being bowled by Keshav Maharaj but again as he grows into his new role, he will find it easier to not think too hard about those decisions and focus solely on scoring crucial runs for his country.
On a whole, it was a straightforward introduction to the captaincy for Joe Root, but I doubt he will ever get an easier Test match as England skipper. The conditions didn’t change all week, he never had a major partnership he desperately needed to break up, and all his players contributed either with the bat, the ball or in the field. A Captain’s dream.
South Africa will (hopefully) not be as poor in the field or with the bat as the series heads to Trent Bridge. Du Plessis returns to the side, and brings with him his experience and leadership that the South Africans missed at Lord’s. He will no doubt come in and fire the tourists up for the second match, and Root should be prepared for a response from the Proteas.