Joe Root has youthful England on right track, says Nasser Hussain

Written by on 19/01/2020

Nasser Hussain reflected on a fine day for England in the third Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth, covering a wide range of topics, including Joe Root’s captaincy, Dom Bess’ maiden Test five-for and South Africa’s struggles…

You can see seeds, green shoots of recovery coming through for England with these young lads, Bess, Ollie Pope, Zak Crawley, Dom Sibley.

Yesterday, I thought Root made an error up front, going with Sam Curran at one end. But he was quick to react; no captain makes the right decision all the time.

The other thing I’ve heard, speaking to some of the England boys – I don’t want to drop anyone in it – was that Joe was apparently very cross at the body language. He felt they were a bit subdued, a feeling of ‘we’ve got 499, we’re going to win this game’.

After the first wicket, he got them in the huddle and had a right go at them, by all accounts. And after that they’ve really picked up their performance.

He then brought Bess on very quickly, when he could’ve gone with Mark Wood. He has set attacking fields – a silly point for Dean Elgar; I can’t remember the last time we’ve had a catch at silly point as an England side. He has got his catching men in the right places.

Should England enforce the follow-on if they can?

The follow-on becomes important because over the next couple of days there is rain forecast.

Modern cricketers generally don’t like to enforce the follow-on but, with all this rain around, you don’t really want to go out and bat again and take more time out of the game.

First of all, get these [remaining first-innings] wickets, and then get on with trying to win this game and get ahead in the series.

Bess takes maiden Test five-for

It’s an unbelievable story. He wasn’t in the initial squad and then got called up because of illness to Jack Leach; he has come and delivered.

I think you have to give credit to the ECB, to put him on the programme he has been on and, more importantly, the lad himself. It shows that if you do work hard at your game, you can get back in and you can improve – whatever level you’re at.

You think back to Newlands (the second Test), where he did a containing role, all eyes were on him here; can you spin South Africa out?

He has taken the first five wickets and proper batsmen and proper dismissals too, not caught in the deep or whatever.

He has been brought up on spinning pitches, like this, at Taunton and he has used the crease well, as well as dropping his arm and undercutting it.

He looks a very confident young man, and I think for a spinner to be a success these days, in any form of cricket – with players generally trying to belt you – you need to be confident.

When I see him around the traps, he looks a sparky kind of guy, who really wants to play at this level.

Which spinners do England take to Sri Lanka?

What do they do with Moeen Ali now? I would stick with Bess and in Sri Lanka, maybe go with Bess and Leach – a combination who know each other well. Give youth a chance.

Right now, Moeen is probably a better cricketer than Bess because of his experience but Mo is unavailable and Test cricket has taken a lot of strain on him mentally.

He needs time away and I have no issue with that; it is a draining game, particularly for an English spinner.

Mo has been wonderful for England on and off the field, so it is nice to have him in reserve.

Pressure mounting on South Africa and Faf du Plessis?

The signs were there in Cape Town. After Centurion, everyone was praising the new group, the new regime – [Jacques] Kallis, [Mark] Boucher, [Graeme] Smith – and that they were going in the right direction.

They then put in a poor performance in Cape Town and have come here and been blown away at the moment by England.

Faf is under pressure. He hasn’t got a Test hundred since January of last year. But you only change if you’re changing for the better; is there someone who can do better than Faf?

I’m actually surprised this sort of thing hasn’t happened to South African cricket a lot earlier. Think of the cricketers they’ve lost, AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel, Hashim Amla, Kyle Abbott, Duane Olivier.

I don’t think Faf is the problem. They don’t know what to do with the Kolpak transformation system at the moment, with the Rand-Pound conversion rate.

People are seeing it as a financial decision to play elsewhere. The talent drain is huge in this country.

South Africa’s quota system

Faf was asked in the press conference before Cape Town, ‘is the colour draining out of your side?’

It was a very good question, because he’s gone away from transformation for now, and Faf said ‘I don’t see colour’.

That is a very brave answer in this country. I think it’s where we’d all love to get to, but the population is something like 90 per cent black African, so you can’t go out there with a white African side.

I put this question to Makhaya Ntini, and he’s not a big fan of the quota system. I was surprised, from someone of his stature.

And, look at it from the other side, when I spoke to Kevin Pietersen, he said he was playing in a game – literally heading out the door – and the coach tapped him on the shoulder to tell him a person of colour had to come in to hit their quota. That made Pietersen say ‘I’m off’.

Also, look at Abbott. He played in the game before a World Cup semi-final, bowled really well, then the semi-final against New Zealand comes around and, again, he’s tapped on the shoulder and told Vernon Philander had to play. Abbott then straight away was on a plane to Hampshire.

It’s a very fragile subject that us foreigners should probably stay out of. This is their business, and you’d hope they get it right.

Watch day four of the third Test between South Africa and England, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 7.30am on Sunday.

(c) Sky Sports 2020: Joe Root has youthful England on right track, says Nasser Hussain

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