The crucial England man who will need to lead the way in South Africa Test

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Joe.Root_.Rory_.Burns_.England.PA_

English cricket is in a very healthy position right now despite the recent series defeat in New Zealand.

Of course, the remarkable Ben Stokes inspired World Cup win over the Kiwis in the summer remains fresh in the memory and that brought a lot more attention to all forms of the game in the UK. So, even though the side recently failed to secure a victory against Kane Williamson’s men, there is excitement about this side going into the upcoming series over the festive period and beyond against South Africa.

They will be buoyed by the expected return of Jimmy Anderson, Mark Wood and Jonny Bairstow, whilst the South African’s off-field struggles of their own means that England will embrace the challenge of trying to secure an away series win. Reports have emerged suggesting that a strike by the hosts could impact the play.

Nevertheless, it will still be a tough ask and you get the feeling that if they are to return home with a win then Root will be crucial. His importance to English cricket is there for all to see and he will need to excel in his captaincy as well as with the bat when the Tests come around. And there were signs against New Zealand that he is ready to do just that.

Whilst the pitches were favourable to those at the crease, his double century in the drawn second Test in Hamilton was a sign that he was getting back to his irresistible best. From a personal perspective, it also ensured that he moved back into the top ten Test batting ranking, which will be important to the player considering he has been a regular there over the years.

That may give him the confidence boost he needs going into the battles with South Africa and Root certainly has the talent to be the top scorer in the series as well as leading England to victory. In truth, few have ever questioned the technique or natural ability of the Sheffield lad, with the only minor criticism is that he doesn’t deliver big enough or frequently enough to highlight the undoubted class that he has.

Joe Root England PA

At 28, Root should still be able to have a fair few years at the highest level and he is now mature enough to deal with the extra expectancy and pressure that captaincy brings. With his head in the right place, this England side have the potential to be a real force in this format and it’s an exciting time to be watching the country again. They are currently seen as favourites for the series at 5/4 in the cricket betting odds, although South Africa are only narrowly behind at 6/4.

Now, it’s down to Root to take his form from New Zealand when England travel to South Africa and lead this side to glory – which he will hope can be the springboard for even greater success down the line.