Ben Stokes is our ‘golden nugget’, says Joe Root after England’s second Test win over South Africa

An ecstatic Joe Root hailed Ben Stokes as England’s “golden nugget” after his inspirational efforts that took them to a series-tying victory over South Africa in the second Test in Cape Town.

Stokes took three wickets late on the final day in a Herculean spell of quick bowling, getting the ball to reverse swing as he ran through the South African tail.

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Stokes found himself on a hat-trick after dismissing Dwaine Pretorius and Anrich Nortje with consecutive balls – the latter falling to a spectacular rebound catch by Zak Crawley in the slips – while he then wrapped up the 189-run win with the wicket of Vernon Philander with eight overs remaining.

“I thought it was a brilliant performance, throughout the whole five days,” Root told Sky Sports. “We had to work extremely hard; credit to South Africa, they made it very difficult for us and played some good cricket.

“But the guys really stood up and put in a real team effort, summed up by the way Stokesy finished things off.

“He makes things happen. He’s that golden nugget in our side.

“It doesn’t happen by accident. He works bloody hard and that’s a great example to the young guys coming into the side, seeing what Test cricket is like and how different it is to county cricket.

“That’s what has really pleased me about this week and made me really proud; a very young set of lads, they’re having to learn on their feet and stand up.”

Root’s pride at young guns

Root spoke about three of the youngest players of England’s side, second-innings centurion Dom Sibley (24), his opening partner Crawley (21), playing in only his second Test, and recalled spinner Dom Bess (22).

“That’s how we see him [Sibley] play for Warwickshire in the County Championship; one of his great strengths is his patience,” said Root. “He treats every ball on merit, he doesn’t get flustered, doesn’t get away from his game plan and backs himself.

“To score a hundred in the second innings of any Test match is impressive, and for it to be your first one, I’m really proud of him.

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“I’ve learnt Zak’s a very good slip fielder and has great hands, for a start.

“One thing you’ve got to very careful of, coming into Test cricket, is over-analysing things, especially opening the batting – I did it for a brief time – as you’ve got such a long time to think about each dismissal.

“But, for him, he has to just keep trusting his game and keep reading situations as well as he can.

“He’s a very bright cricketer; the way he played in the second innings was brilliant, he put pressure back on the bowlers and he got us off to a fine start.

“It gives us great confidence at the top of the order going into the rest of the games.

“I thought Bess did a brilliant job for us. In the first innings, in particular, they went nowhere. He built brilliant pressure and got a key wicket.

“And again today, he picked up a wicket at a vital time. I’m really pleased for him to come in and perform like he did.”

‘Strong about how we wanted to perform’

Root hopes England’s win can now serve as a template for the team to follow on overseas tours, but did also admit there are areas to work on, in particular scoring more runs in the first innings.

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“We had a really strong message about how we wanted to perform on this wicket and we stuck to it,” Root said. “I always felt like we were in the game and, if we trusted it for long enough, things would fall in our favour – thankfully they did.

“For long periods of time, we were excellent – something we’ve struggled with abroad for a while. We built pressure and we followed it through.

“It’s a really good marker for the rest of the series and into tours in the future.

“Of course we’d have loved to have made a bit more of that first innings, we probably could have got a few more; 350 would have been a really good score on that wicket.

“But, from that point onwards, we responded – the guys with the ball were very disciplined, they exploited the conditions that were there, or they controlled the rate.

“We caught really well, made the most of everything that came our way, and we timed things perfectly I thought.

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