Root impressed by England's resilience

Wednesday, 09 Aug, 2017

England remain strong favourites to win the fourth Test against South Africa after Moeen Ali's late strokeplay arrested their second-innings slide.

Several former England captains had criticised Root's men for a lack of application after South Africa levelled the series at 1-1 with a huge 340-run win in the second Test at Trent Bridge.

First blood for the hosts as a pumped-up Stuart Broad zeroed in on the outside edge and located it with a heat-seeking beauty from round the wicket.

But he was struck down by a mystery virus that reduced his effectiveness in the third Test at The Oval and Philander did not even make the team at Old Trafford because of a back problem.

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Captain Joe Root added on BBC Test Match Special: "Moeen looks like he's improving all the time". I didn't really think too much.

England coach Trevor Bayliss all but confirmed that their bowling coach Ottis Gibson will take over the head coaching role of South Africa.

Ali controlled a 58-run stand with Toby Roland-Jones, scoring 45 of those 58 runs from just 40 balls. Great pitch to bowl on, especially today, landing it in a good area you get the reward. But the beauty of an effective spinner is that he can dismiss a major batsman when the ball is old, the sun is out and the fielders are tiring.

A fourth-wicket stand of 123 between Amla, who flowed into his strokes for the first time this summer, and Faf du Plessis held England up for much of the afternoon.

Ali was not done with Amla's scalp and in the very next over he had the risky Quinton de Kock and Theunis de Bruyn edging to the slips as he made full use of the rough on the Old Trafford pitch.

"I'd have taken it", Moeen said with typical understatement when asked about his 25-wicket haul.

His replacement, Tom Westley, made a half-century on debut in the third Test and averaged 30.

But Bairstow, rotating the strike well, went on the offensive, with his fine attacking innings including a superb straight six off Duanne Olivier.

With England's twin gingers, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, ahead of him, the arguments for Moeen batting so low are not without merit, it is just that on the days when he is on song it feels a little like using King Arthur's Excalibur to open a pile of old letters.

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"[Beating SA for first time at home since 1998] Very proud moment, throughout we've put in the performances and that's what it takes the win series like this". "Hopefully we can salvage that tomorrow".