England in South Africa: Joe Root says illness not an excuse for defeat

Joe Root is dismissed
Root, who spent time off the field on day three, made 48 as England were bowled out before tea on day four

Captain Joe Root said England will not use the illness that affected much of their squad as an excuse for the first-Test defeat in South Africa.

Ten players were hit in the build-up to or during the match in Centurion, which England lost by 107 runs.

"There has been a huge amount thrown at the group, on and off the field," Root told BBC Sport.

"It would be wrong to hide behind that, but it has disrupted preparations for a lot of the guys."

As well as the illness, which also affected four members of the backroom staff, all-rounder Ben Stokes' father was admitted to hospital three days before the Test began.

Stokes missed training on 24 December to be with his father Ged, who has since left intensive care.

"We showed a huge amount of character throughout the whole week," said Root. "No-one has moaned about it."

Coach Chris Silverwood, who is now without a win in three Tests since taking charge, said the illness left England with an "unpredictable" build-up.

"I've never been involved in a build-up like this, to have a morning of a game where you're getting told that players are falling over," he said.

"Guys that were coming back from being poorly were training while others were on the park, to keep them separate.

"When Jos Buttler was poorly yesterday, he was in a different room. We've had hand sanitisers. You name it, it's all happening."

On the field, England paid the price for failing to capitalise on two strong positions.

After winning the toss and choosing to field, the tourists had South Africa 111-5, only to let them reach 284.

In response, England collapsed from 142-3 to 181 all out.

It meant that a determined batting effort in their second innings, when they battled hard to 268, left them well short of the target of 376.

"I said at the time the toss was a 50-50 call," said Root. "You get a side 111-5, you think you've made the right call. It's about finishing the innings off and we didn't manage to do that.

"At 111-5 in the first innings, you're looking at bowling them out for 180. Unfortunately they got away from us there.

"Then we got into a reasonable position with the bat, lost a couple of wickets and were 100 runs short of where we should have been. Those two scenarios have cost us this Test match."

Silverwood confirmed that off-spinner Dom Bess and pace bowler Craig Overton, who were added to the squad as cover, will remain in South Africa for the second Test in Cape Town, which begins on Friday.

"Everything has been thrown at this group and we have worked hard to deal with that," said Root.

"Maybe that will stand us in good stead for the next game. Hopefully the illness is through camp and we can prepare well."

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