Joe Root believes England are in a great place after their youngsters continued to shine in a crushing third-Test victory over South Africa at St George’s Park.

After being delayed by a last-wicket partnership of 99 from Keshav Maharaj and Dane Paterson, England got over the line to comprehensively win by an innings and 53 runs in Port Elizabeth on Monday.

That put the tourists 2-1 up in the four-match series, having successfully followed up their dramatic victory at Newlands.

Ollie Pope made his first Test century, top scoring with 135 not out in England's 499-9 declared, before Dom Bess (5-51) claimed a maiden five-wicket Test haul as the Proteas were dismissed for 209 in their first innings.

Dom Sibley had starred with a century in Cape Town and Root is thrilled to see his young players thrive.

"We've had four guys under 25 making hundreds or taking five-fors and that's a great place to be," England captain Root said after taking 4-87 in South Africa's second innings.

"We want to keep continuing to provide an environment where that becomes possible and keep giving those guys that confidence to make sure when they get that opportunity they can fulfil it as they have done here.

"That's what it's about, it's not going to be the same guys every week. It's about collectively doing your role within the team. We've got a very good squad of players, there's a couple of very good players who aren't in this XI, and that's a really exciting place to be as well.

"When guys are really stepping up to the plate, especially at a young age, and showing they can perform at this level, that’s going to fill everyone with a huge amount of confidence. 

"Ollie batted beautifully with Stokesy [Ben Stokes], a brilliant partnership which really put us in a commanding position and the way Bessy bowled was fantastic that first innings. 

"From that point on we always felt we were in control of things. We go into a massive game next week feeling we are in a really nice spot."

The last Test of the series begins in Johannesburg on Friday and Root acknowledged England must continue to react to changing conditions.

He added: "We've adapted quickly so far. We learned our lessons very quickly from Centurion and made sure we figured out a method that was going to be successful at Cape Town and stuck to it really well. Similarly here. 

"It'll be exactly the same in Joburg. It'll be very different, different challenges for both batters and bowlers. 

"We must make sure we are very disciplined in how we set up and approach the conditions."

England eased to a first innings win away from home in more than nine years after dismissing a stubborn South Africa tail on the final morning of the third Test.

The tourists' opening spell was not as devastating as the Sunday burst that saw the final four first-innings wickets fall for just a single run, but victory was never in doubt, a 2-1 series lead secured in dominant fashion.

Starting on 102-6 - still 188 runs behind - Stuart Broad got Vernon Philander (13) with the third ball of the day, before Kagiso Rabada followed after a brief show of resilience.

Dom Bess removed Anrich Nortje for five, and although Keshav Maharaj disrupted England's rhythm with a slew of boundaries, ending on 71, a 99-run stand for the 10th wicket concluded with his run-out.

South Africa eventually succumbed by an innings and 53 runs, with the January 2011 defeat of Australia in Sydney the last time England triumphed away from home without needing to bat a second time.

Any Proteas hope of frustrating England early in the day were initially tempered as Philander's inside edge popped up off his pad for a stretching Ollie Pope to take his sixth catch of the match at short midwicket.

Rabada, suspended for the fourth Test, looked to depart the series in style, quickly moving to 16 off 24 balls. But his exit to Mark Wood was a feeble chip to Broad at mid-on with less than half an hour played.

Bess, who claimed 5-51 in the first innings, then took his first wicket of the second with a quicker delivery through Nortje into middle and off, while Joe Root's (4-87) bid for a first career five-for continued against South Africa's final pairing.

Maharaj and Dane Paterson (39 not out) improbably provided the Proteas' most prolific partnership of the innings by far, the former having some fun with consecutive sixes in a Root over that brought 28 runs - tying the record in the longest format.

A second Test fifty soon arrived for Maharaj, who showed no signs of slowing, a maiden century moving into view.

But he could not quite get there with the final wicket summing up the South Africa display, Maharaj well short of his crease with Sam Curran firing in a direct hit from mid-on.

The fourth Test in Johannesburg starts on January 24.

Mark Wood joked England captain Joe Root had pulled rank on the way to achieving his Test-best bowling figures on day four of the third Test against South Africa at St George's Park.

The tourists' skipper poached 4-31 after Wood struck twice as South Africa's sorry batsmen, following on after a first-innings morning collapse, slumped to 102-6 at stumps on Sunday - trailing by 188 runs.

Root's off-spin caused chaos, taking his lead from Dom Bess, who grabbed five wickets in the Proteas' first knock but had a supporting role second time around.

Wood, playing his first competitive match since England's Cricket World Cup final triumph over New Zealand last July, quipped that Root used his authority to take centre stage in Port Elizabeth.

"He bowled himself at the right end, didn't he!" the paceman said. "Put young Bessy on at the non-spinning end and he got the spinning end. So captain's not stupid is he!

"I feel like he does get key wickets when he bowls. He's been working on it a lot in the nets. As a group we're really pleased for him. Hopefully he gets the 'five-for' tomorrow."

Root had only taken four wickets in a match once before, a 4-5 haul in a winning cause for Yorkshire against Roses rivals Lancashire in 2018.

Wood, however, is no stranger to big performances with the ball, but spending another long spell out of action has been frustrating for the 30-year-old Durham paceman.

"I've waited quite a while to come back in," he said, after taking 2-23. "I'm trying to have fun, trying to play with a smile on my face and take it all in.

"Before the game I wasn't sure how it was going to go. I hadn't played any practice matches, I didn't have any of that match fitness. I was probably a little bit tired at the end of today but all in all I think I've stood up well physically."

Wood suffered his side injury with three balls remaining of his 10-over allocation in the World Cup final, which he called a "dream game".

"I didn't want to limp off after 9.3 overs," he said, stressing bowling on had been a risk worth taking. "I wouldn't swap that for the world. To be a World Cup winner, I'd take that any day of the week.

"Even if I didn't play another game of Test cricket, I've always got that to look back on with great memories and think that was the pinnacle of my career."

Joe Root produced the finest bowling performance of his England career on day four of the third Test to put the tourists within sight of victory over South Africa at St George's Park.

Surely only rain can save the hosts now, with a mixed forecast for the final day in Port Elizabeth, where England need only four wickets to take a 2-1 lead with one match to play.

Root had never taken more than two wickets in a Test, but the captain snagged 4-31 in 19 overs on Sunday after Mark Wood struck twice to leave South Africa 102-6 in their second innings, still trailing by 188 runs.

Part-time off-spinner Root only had one previous four-wicket haul, the 4-5 he took to steer Yorkshire to a County Championship victory against Lancashire at Old Trafford in July 2018.

England were already in command and they pressed home their advantage on day four, with 10 South Africa wickets falling for just 103 runs.

South Africa had a wretched morning, losing four wickets for just one run to slump from 208-6 to 209 all out. England had no hesitation in enforcing the follow-on.

Vernon Philander and Quinton de Kock were 54 runs into a seventh-wicket stand at stumps on the previous evening, but that partnership was swiftly broken.

Both men went the same way, bowled through the gate, with Stuart Broad (3-30) cleaning up Philander and Sam Curran delighting at removing De Kock (63).

Keshav Maharaj chopped on to give Broad his second wicket of the morning, before a third followed for the paceman when Kagiso Rabada chipped straight to Wood at mid-off.

South Africa were 15-0 in their second innings when rain arrived to provide respite, with three hours lost.

Eight balls into the resumption came another blow to the Proteas, Wood piercing Dean Elgar's defences and tearing his off stump out of the ground.

Wood (2-23) struck again when a leg-side snick from the struggling Zubayr Hamza was gratefully received by Jos Buttler.

Sliced and diced by England's quicks, South Africa found the tourists' spinners almost unplayable too, with Dom Bess keeping a tight line, but Root rampant.

Root pinned Pieter Malan lbw for 12 - the opener having faced 79 balls for those runs - and then prised out Rasse van der Dussen when Ollie Pope took off from short leg to grab a spectacular leaping catch.

Van der Dussen had survived a string of scares against Root, most notably when he successfully reviewed an lbw decision, and his time had been coming.

De Kock's bad day got even worse, a horribly sliced hoik at Root looping up for Wood to clutch a tremendous catch above his head at point.

And Root had a fourth victim when Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis (36) got a big inside edge into his pads and the ball looped up for Pope to collect.

South Africa need to find something big on day five to save face, and avoid going to Johannesburg needing a victory to draw the series. The skies offer their best hope.

England skipper Joe Root prompted confusion and hilarity on day two of the third Test with South Africa as he withdrew a declaration after a wicket was ruled out due to a no-ball.

When Mark Wood was caught at mid-on off Kagiso Rabada to seemingly leave England 467-9, Root called a halt to his side's first innings at Port Elizabeth.

However, replays then showed Rabada had over-stepped, prompting Root to reverse his decision and instead advise his side to carry on batting.

Wood and Ollie Pope, who had earlier completed his maiden Test century, made the most of the bizarre situation by plundering a further 31 runs - in addition to the run England received for Rabada's no-ball - in quick time.

After racing to 42 from 23 balls, Wood eventually holed out to deep midwicket off Keshav Maharaj (5-180) and England declared on 499-9, with Pope 135 not out.

Ben Stokes (120) had also reached three figures for the tourists prior to lunch as they kicked on superbly from an overnight score of 224-4.

Mark Wood was named in England's side for the third Test against South Africa, with Jofra Archer once again unavailable.

Captain Joe Root opted to give the fit-again Wood the nod to replace James Anderson, who sustained a rib injury in the Ben Stokes-inspired victory in Cape Town that levelled the four-match series at 1-1.

Paceman Archer missed out in Port Elizabeth as he continues to battle a troublesome elbow problem, while Wood earned a place over Chris Woakes, who was also in contention.

"Jofra pulled up a little sore with his elbow, but credit to Woody, he's fit and firing and that's an exciting place to be, and two guys up around 90mph is an exciting place for England cricket," Root said. 

"We need to make sure we back up [Cape Town] well."

Wood last played a competitive fixture in England's thrilling Cricket World Cup final victory over New Zealand in July and underwent knee surgery after the tournament.

The paceman's last Test match was against the West Indies in St Lucia 11 months ago, but Wood insisted he is raring to go.

"I went to La Manga with James Anderson then the fast bowlers' camp. There've been question marks about my fitness, but that last game [in St Lucia] gives me confidence," he said. 

"Short, sharp burst, four-five overs, give it everything I've got. The outfield is quite green so [you have] got to be clever working on the ball and look after it well."

England captain Joe Root pledged not to take any risks over the fitness of pace bowlers Jofra Archer and Mark Wood on the eve of the third Test against South Africa.

A Ben Stokes-inspired England squared the four-match series at one apiece thanks to a thrilling victory on the final session in Cape Town eight days ago.

Glory came at a price, however, with James Anderson ruled out of the remainder of the tour due to a rib problem.

It means a potential opening for Wood or Archer – both of whom are capable of frequently topping 90 mph - providing their own injury complaints are in order.

Archer sat out the previous Test due to an elbow issue, while Wood has not played competitively since England's Cricket World Cup final win over South Africa in June.

"That decision hasn't been made," Root told a news conference, with regards to Anderson's replacement.

"It's important to use [Wednesday's] session and make sure we've got a really clear understanding of where everybody is at.

"We need to find that out and make sure we're really clear going into a five-day game that they are able to stand up to the challenges that will bring, physically and mentally, having not played for a little while.

"It is the sensible thing to do to hold off, get more information on the pitch and more information on where they're at.

"If they've proven themselves to be fit, if they've jumped through every hoop and worked very hard to get back there, you have to give them that opportunity."

Chris Woakes represents an alternative if England opt not to chance Archer or Wood, but there is no doubt selecting either of the speed merchants carries added allure.

Wood's most recent Test outing saw him claim first-innings figures of 5-41 thanks to a searing spell before being named man of the match in a 232-run demolition of West Indies in St Lucia.

"With Mark, if you look at the last summer of cricket he played, he actually got through a lot of cricket injury-free which is testament to how hard he's worked on his rehab and making sure his body can cope with different things. He's been managed well by the medical staff," Root said.

"The reason we've been quite cautious in terms of rushing him back is that history. If he's 100 per cent, bowling at 90mph-plus, the skills he has at that pace are going to cause problems and will be a great asset in Test cricket."

Root confirmed a specialist spinner will feature in the England attack in Port Elizabeth, with Dom Bess expected to keep his place ahead of the uncapped Matt Parkinson after Jack Leach returned home due to illness.

England's difference-maker could once again be Stokes, who was honoured by the International Cricket Council (ICC) as its Player of the Year after a phenomenal 2019 in red and white-ball formats.

"It is hard to say any more superlatives, it is the right decision and it could not really have been anyone else," his captain added.

"The way he has performed across all the formats has been fantastic. In my opinion he is definitely the leading player in the world at the moment."

Joe Root sat out England's Sunday practice session ahead of the third Test with South Africa due to illness.

The England captain is contending with an upset stomach just four days out from the Porth Elizabeth contest.

Root was also affected by illness for the first Test in Centurion, with flu-like symptoms having plagued the tourists' camp before and during the match.

Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Root each spent time off the pitch in that Test, which South Africa won resoundingly.

England recovered to level the series in Cape Town and will hope Root makes a swift recovery.

Dom Sibley led the way as England produced a dominant display to take a 264-run lead on day three of the second Test against South Africa.

Having failed to fire in three previous Test outings, Sibley has looked much more comfortable in Cape Town, where he will return on Monday 15 runs shy of a maiden century.

The opener rode his luck on a couple of occasions but demonstrated poise and composure in a patient 222-ball unbeaten knock, much of which was spent in a 116-run stand with captain Joe Root (61).

The hosts were all out for 223 and still trailing by 46 as the tail was quickly cleaned up by James Anderson at the start of Sunday's play, the veteran seamer closing with a five-for as Ben Stokes also became the first England fielder to take five catches in a Test innings.

But it was the tourists' batting that was the story of the day, England shrugging off the frailties exposed in their 107-run loss in the first Test as they built what is likely to be a match-winning advantage with six wickets still in hand. 

After Anderson accounted for Kagiso Rabada, who provided Stokes' landmark catch, and Anrich Nortje, England got to work asserting their authority.

Warwickshire batsman Sibley saw Zak Crawley edge Rabada for 25 before building a 73-run partnership with Joe Denly, who fell to Nortje following a poorly executed pull shot. 

Root was the next man to keep Sibley company, although the latter narrowly avoided having his off stump taken out by a superb Vernon Philander delivery that he riskily decided to leave. 

Sibley punished a short and wide delivery from Rabada to bring up his half-century in the 50th over and the pairing was worth 100 runs by the time Root reached the same milestone with a boundary in the 74th.

The Proteas finally got some late reward for their toil, Dwaine Pretorius finding Root's outside edge to bring in nightwatchman Dom Bess, who was out without scoring for the second time in the match.

England were unable to avoid defeat in the first Test against South Africa, but Joe Root was proud of the character his illness-ridden side showed at Centurion.

Root was among a host of players and backroom staff in the England camp to be hampered by a sickness bug either before or during the series opener.

After collapsing from 142-3 to 181 all out in their first innings, the tourists threatened to pull off an unlikely chase of 376 for victory as Rory Burns (84) and Root (48) dug in, but England were ultimately dismissed for 268 on day four.

"It's been a really tough week off the field - pretty much everything has been thrown at the group," said England's skipper at the post-match presentation.

"We had 10 guys go down ill throughout the week or in the build-up to the week. And I think credit to everyone, they stood up, tried to put in the best performance possible and at no stage have they let anyone down.

"I think pretty much everyone has been ill now, so hopefully that's out the way ... and we can all prepare extremely well and bounce back strong."

Root insisted his team believed they could pull off a similar chase to the one they managed in this year's third Ashes Test at Headingley, where Ben Stokes' sensational 135 underpinned a successful pursuit of 359 against Australia.

"It's not been long since we've seen similar chases from a very similar group of players," Root added. "We got ourselves in a position, even at lunch with me and Ben there. It was pretty much the same equation as it was at Headingley a few months back.

"So we were fully confident we could chase those runs down. We just knew it was going to take one or two reasonable partnerships and we needed to negotiate the new ball very well."

England's decision to bowl first at the toss was questioned after South Africa recovered from 111-5 to post 284 at the start of the contest, but Root said: "I still believe it was a 50-50 call.

"You get a side 111-5 and you really think you've got ahead of the game. So maybe a slight opportunity missed there as well but ultimately you have to give credit to South Africa. I thought they played very well."

Addressing England's own first-innings collapse, Root added: "I think that was where the game was won and lost. It's really disappointing but in the same sense it's really pleasing to see us very quickly put in a better performance [with the bat] in the second innings."

Ollie Pope is hoping lessons learned from watching New Zealand's BJ Watling and England captain Joe Root will provide him with a platform heading into the Test series against South Africa.

Pope scored 132 from 145 deliveries in England's first innings against South Africa A, in the visitors' final warm-up match ahead of the first Test, which starts on Boxing Day.

The 21-year-old, who hit 75 in England's second Test against New Zealand in Hamilton, says taking tips from Root – who scored 226 in that match – and Watling, who amassed 205 in the first game of the series, has helped him adapt his style.

"In New Zealand the wickets were good value, fairly slow. Watching the way BJ Watling went about his stuff and Rooty when he got his double hundred," Pope told Sky Sports.

"You can almost be really specific and wait for the ball to get right in your area. The way I got out in the first Test was with right shots, I got a bit greedy.

"You don’t need to take those risks. If I keep batting time, face as many balls as I can, hopefully the rewards will come.

"It's nice [to start the tour with 100]. It's nice to get some time in the middle. I felt good out there, going into the Tests knowing that I’ve got used to the wickets a little bit, adapted my game a little bit. Hopefully I can take that into the first Test."

England's squad has been struck by an illness, meaning Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad and Jack Leach have so far been unable to feature in the warm-up games, while Joe Denly revealed he had been suffering from "flu-ey" symptoms.

Fortunately for England, Archer, Broad and Leach trained on Saturday, and Pope is hopeful the visitors will be able to call on a full complement of players for the first Test at Centurion.

"The boys have been training this afternoon and they're getting back to it now," Pope said.

"It's been a bit of a strange start to the tour with everyone being injured or ill.

"This was supposed to be a first-class game but it ended up not being because we didn't have the seamers to put out."

Ben Stokes has revealed he should be fit to bowl during England's tour of South Africa after scans confirmed he had not sustained a knee injury.

Stokes complained of a knee problem during the first day of England's second and final Test against New Zealand in Hamilton,.

However, he did bowl 25 overs during the Test, which was drawn as England lost the series 1-0.

The all-rounder - a star of England's Cricket World Cup and Ashes campaigns - has now confirmed he will be fit to bowl against the Proteas, with England's four-Test tour to begin on Boxing Day.

"It's alright," Stokes told talkSPORT. "I got some scans when we got back [to] England and there's nothing really showing up on the MRI scans, which is good news.

"I just need to toughen up I guess but it's alright and it's just treatment now. I will be fine to bowl [in South Africa]."

After a difficult Ashes series and a poor performance with the bat in the first Test in New Zealand, Joe Root returned to form in style in Hamilton, scoring 226 in the first innings, and Stokes claimed he backed the England captain to hit a double century ahead of the tour.

"Rooty is one of the best players in the world. He obviously went through a little bit of a dip in performance but that is natural, he’s human. The old saying is form is temporary and class is permanent," Stokes added.

"It's obviously great for English cricket to see Joe go out in his last innings before a big tour and hopefully we can see Rooty scoring runs like he normally does.

"Being Test captain is one of the toughest jobs and one of the most criticised and how people speak about you is dependent on how well the performances on the pitch individually and as a team.

"It's unfair most of the time that when things don’t go well the captain gets it all. I actually called Joe to get a double hundred on day one of our first warm-up game to Rory Burns. I think I was stood at slip and I said, 'Joe is going to get a double hundred this tour'."

England assistant coach Graham Thorpe wants players to use their experience of the 1-0 Test series defeat in New Zealand to develop a harder edge.

Joe Root's side are back in action in South Africa later this month, with the first of four Tests starting on Boxing Day at Centurion.

James Anderson, Mark Wood and Jonny Bairstow are expected to return to the squad having sat out the trip to New Zealand, where a draw in Hamilton meant the tourists were unable to overturn an innings defeat in the first Test at Mount Maunganui.

Nevertheless, Thorpe acknowledges there is a bigger picture to consider when it comes to England developing their Test game under new head coach Chris Silverwood – namely the next chance to regain the Ashes in 2021-22.

"We've got to keep developing our players, no doubt about that. They have to ask themselves when they come away from a trip like this: where can I get better?" said Thorpe, as quoted by The Guardian.

"Because the big picture is that down the line, in a couple of years' time, we'll need resilient cricketers going to Australia.

"It’s down to our players to be honest and for us to be honest with them.

"If we are going to keep trying to go up that Test ladder and really compete abroad then we have to keep challenging the players along the way."

Virat Kohli has returned to the top of the batting list in the ICC Test Player Rankings ahead of Steve Smith, whose Australia team-mate David Warner is back in the first five.

Smith struggled for form in Australia's dominant series win over Pakistan and, having scored only 36 runs in the second Test in Adelaide, saw his points drop from 931 to 923.

Conversely, India skipper Kohli scored 136 in the day-night Test against Bangladesh and returned to the summit on 928 points.

Warner rose an impressive 12 places to fifth after making a sensational 335 against Pakistan, while fellow Aussie Marnus Labuschagne makes the top 10 for the first time in his career.

England captain Joe Root is back in the top 10 having slipped out last week. He climbs to seventh after a sublime 226 versus New Zealand in the drawn second Test.

England captain Joe Root backed Jofra Archer to bounce back after the paceman struggled to have an impact in the 1-0 Test series loss to New Zealand.

Archer finished with just two wickets at an average of 104.50 as England lost the series after the second Test was drawn in Hamilton on Tuesday.

But Root backed the 24-year-old, who saw Joe Denly drop a simple chance to dismiss Kane Williamson off his bowling on day five, to respond.

"He's found out that Test cricket is hard. You sometimes don't get the rewards you deserve in Test cricket," he told Sky Sports.

"He is a fantastic talent and there's no doubt he's going to contribute to England in Test cricket.

"I expect him to bounce back quite quickly. He's a fast learner."

Williamson and Ross Taylor made unbeaten centuries at Seddon Park before the rain arrived, leading to a drawn second Test.

Root was unsurprisingly left disappointed after the series loss, saying: "It was a frustrating day.

"I thought we tried everything as a bowling group, a couple of chances didn't stick. I thought we were forcing the issue a lot of the time."

Black Caps captain Williamson praised his team after holding on for a draw on a flat pitch in the second Test.

"It was a great fighting effort over the last couple of weeks. We know how strong the England side is. To lose both tosses but to keep showing that fight was really pleasing to see," he said.

"The first match for us was a fantastic victory. To come here and back it up with another strong performance was really pleasing."

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