Joe Root urges England to step up and do something special amid adversity

Preparations for the first South Africa Test have been severely disrupted and Jonny Bairstow could be drafted into the XI“We’ll just try to make sure no one goes into the game under the weather” is not the most belligerent battle cry for a leader but that was one of the messages from Joe Root before the first Test at Centurion. “Once more unto the ibuprofen, dear friends, once more” does not work that well, either. But a beleaguered Root has been doing his best to balance positivity with pragmatism before a much-anticipated series.It is very inconvenient that his squad has been attacked by a flu bug since their arrival in South Africa and much more agonising that Ben Stokes’s father, Ged, is currently seriously ill in a Johannesburg hospital, which cast doubts over Stokes’ participation in the Test match. The update from the ECB on Christmas morning was cautiously optimistic. Ged Stokes had “shown signs of improvement. He has responded positively to treatment and is now in a stable condition.” As a consequence Stokes was able to take a full part in England’s Christmas Day practice. Continue reading…