They had won the first test before South Africa levelled things up at 1-1. England then went on to win the third and fourth tests to shatter South Africa’s hopes of victory.
It was in fact England’s first test series win over South Africa since 1998. Joe Root claimed his first test series victory as captain and England ended their run of three series without a win. The triumph saw the Three Lions leap frog Australia, who they will defend their Ashes crown later on this year, into third in the International Cricket Council’s Test rankings.
It was a test series to remember for Moeen Ali who had picked up a hat trick of wickets at The Oval and finished the last match off with two wickets from two balls. He becomes the first man to claim 25 wickets and score over 250 runs in a four-match test series. Moeen was rightly named the player of the test after outstanding performances with the bat as well as bowling.
Even though England ran out victors, with some fantastic individual performances, there are still questions to be answered and improvements to be made ahead of their three-Test series against the West Indies in less than ten days’ time and their Ashes defence against Australia.
This is reflected in most respected bookmaker’s prices on who is most likely to win the Ashes first test. So for example, well known sports betting service Unibet, has Australia favourites, priced at 17/20; whilst England is 19/10 to retain the coveted trophy.
The first problem to resolve is the batsmen. England are currently without an opener, a number three and a number five. These positions are up for grabs and players need to step up to the plate and establish themselves whilst proving they have quality required to help England be more successful on the batting front. The top order of the batting definitely needs to improve, but so far appear no closer to resolving the situation.
Keaton Jennings was given a shot as the opening batsmen but only averaged 15 and therefore you’d expect the Durham left-hander to be replaced for the three-Test series against the West Indies. Tom Westley was in at number three and Dawid Malan at number five but they have both yet to prove that they can compete at this level.
The problem still remains around the top order, just as it did before coming into this test series. When England bat first they do well but when batting second they look extremely vulnerable so it’s up to Root now to find the solution.
All in all it was a great victory for England and it will give them fresh impetus ahead of the three-Test series against the West Indies as well as in their Ashes defence in Australia. If they can resolve their batting issue sooner rather than later, they could go on to be a real force.