Eng­land must show char­ac­ter

Manchester Evening News - - SPORT - By RORY DOL­LARD @MENS­ports

ENG­LAND coach Chris Sil­ver­wood be­lieves ad­ver­sity on and off the field has brought his squad to­gether as they look to bounce back from de­feat in the first Test against South Africa.

Lit­tle has gone right for Eng­land since they touched down in Jo­han­nes­burg a fort­night ago and they will hope they will be able to leave their woes be­hind when they travel to Cape Town on New Year’s Eve.

A to­tal of 11 play­ers and a hand­ful of sup­port staff have fallen ill at dif­fer­ent points on the trip, with a com­bi­na­tion of sick­ness and flu-like symp­toms, while Ben Stokes’ fa­ther, Ged, was ad­mit­ted to a lo­cal hospital in a se­ri­ous con­di­tion just be­fore Christ­mas.

The Box­ing Day Test of­fered a chance to re­fo­cus on the job at hand but, rather than a morale-boost­ing vic­tory, Eng­land were on the wrong end of a 107-run de­feat in Centurion. It would be easy for the tourists to feel sorry for them­selves, hav­ing seen their warm-up week ru­ined, three play­ers ruled out of the se­ries opener and three more laid low dur­ing it.

Yet amid the talk of quar­an­tines, con­ta­gions and crit­i­cism of their cricket, Sil­ver­wood has no­ticed the group’s bond grow stronger.

“I think there’s some as­pects from this Test that have gal­vanised us,” he said.

“We’ve seen a lot of char­ac­ter, a lot of guts and a lot of brav­ery from a few of the guys that have been poorly but have got them­selves out there, got them­selves up for it and shown a lot of fight. I’m proud of the guys in that re­spect, the amount of courage that they’ve shown. It’s almost pulled us to­gether and made us stronger as a unit. I thought we showed a lot of courage to get out there and get us as close as they did.”

Eng­land are des­per­ate to see the end of the bug that has swept the camp but open­ing bats­man Dom Si­b­ley was the lat­est player to be struck yes­ter­day and the nec­es­sary close­ness of life on tour – shared fa­cil­i­ties, shared equip­ment, a shared flight – means oth­ers may yet join him.

Sil­ver­wood must fo­cus on other mat­ters, though, specif­i­cally how to bring about his first Test win since in­her­it­ing the top job from Trevor Bayliss. So far he has lost two and drawn one and will pon­der the bal­ance of the side at New­lands.

The in­tro­duc­tion of a spin­ner seems the most ob­vi­ous move after two matches re­ly­ing on the oc­ca­sional tweak­ers of Joe Root and Joe Denly, with Dom Bess seem­ingly in pole po­si­tion.

“With the play­ers we’ve got here and the way things are hap­pen­ing, ev­ery­thing’s got to be on the ta­ble,” ad­mit­ted Sil­ver­wood, who echoed Root’s sug­ges­tion that pro­lific seam­ers James An­der­son and Stu­art Broad were not im­mune from the se­lec­tion de­bate.

Eng­land coach Chris Sil­ver­wood

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