December 29, 2019 / 3:20 PM / 2 months ago

England look to shake off bug and come out fighting fit for next test

PRETORIA (Reuters) - Captain Joe Root refused to blame the virus that swept through the England camp for their first test defeat by South Africa on Sunday but said a healthier touring team would be better placed for Friday’s second of the four-match series.

Cricket - South Africa v England - First Test - Supersport Park, Centurion, South Africa - December 29, 2019 England's Ben Stokes looks dejected as he walks off after losing his wicket to South Africa's Keshav Maharaj REUTERS/Rogan Ward

Ten England players and four support staff had been laid up at one time or another over the last 15 days since the side arrived in South Africa as mystery bug hit the squad, hampering their performance as they lost by 107 runs at Centurion Park.

Several were quarantined, including Ollie Pope, who missed out on playing, and key bowlers Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad battled to be fit in time for the opener at Centurion Park.

“We are not going to hide behind that as an excuse but a lot of our squad have been taken ill over the last two weeks,” Root said after England were dismissed for 268 in their second innings on the fourth day.

“We’ve had to deal with a lot; Ben (Stokes) in particular with that horrible thing with his father.”

Stokes’ father suffered a stroke soon after arriving in Johannesburg to watch his son play but is now out of intensive care.

“So there has been a lot thrown at the squad over the last weeks and I think everyone has tried to deal with it as best they can.

“There are certain things you try to control but some that you can’t. We’ve done very well that it did not affect as many it could,” Root added.

“It was frustrating but it has happened now and hopefully the illness has now passed the camp and we can all be fighting fit and ready to go for Cape Town and bounce back very quickly from this match.”

The second test at Newlands starts on Jan. 3.

Root said his team had shown much fight and character but mostly from a position of adversity.

“We have to show that from the start of the game too and when we get a chance to turn the screws we need to take it, both with bat and ball,” he said.

“That is where this game was won and lost and we are going to have to learn our lesson very quickly.”

Editing by Christian Radnedge

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