A series victory in South Africa could be the platform for England’s Test team to kick on from, believes Yorkshire’s Jonny Tattersall.
Joe Root’s side head into Friday’s fourth and final Test at the Wanderers in Johannesburg (8am UK) holding a 2-1 lead.
The Test team have been inconsistent in recent years, winning six of 15 series since their last visit to South Africa in late 2015/early 2016. One of those was last summer’s 1-0 win over Ireland.
Since their last trip to the Rainbow Nation, they have lost five series and drawn five. All five defeats have come away from home to New Zealand twice, the West Indies, India and Australia.
The England hierarchy, including recently appointed head coach Chris Silverwood, have made no secret of their desire to improve performances, especially with the bat. And that is what has happened in the ongoing series.
England have come from 1-0 down having lost the opener at Centurion just after Christmas, going on to win at Cape Town and, most recently, Port Elizabeth.
There is no doubt this South Africa team have ben dealing with problems of their own both on and off the field. But Tattersall said: “They’ve still got some world-class operators in their side, so winning a series away from home is no mean feat.
“Going over to a country for six weeks and coming out on top against players who play in those conditions six months a year is a very good effort no matter who you play against.
“Hopefully England can get over the line and it can be a turning point for the Test team and they can kick on from it. They’ve shown glimpses of being good but have lacked consistency. All teams go through that kind of period, though.”
White Rose wicketkeeper-batsman Tattersall sums it up perfectly when he says victories at Cape Town and PE have been “proper team performances”.
Contributions have come from a number of different sources – Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley and ex-Yorkshire loanee Dom Bess just to name a few.
Off-spinner Bess, 22, claimed 11 wickets from 10 appearances for the White Rose whilst on loan from Somerset between May and August last season, including four Specsavers County Championship appearances.
Bess was struggling for game time at Taunton, with Jack Leach preferred as their number one spinner. So Yorkshire were only too happy to give him a temporary home.
Bess wasn’t named in England’s initial touring party for South Africa, but he was called into the squad as cover following illness at the start of the trip.
He has been working hard on his game this winter with ex internationals Rangana Herath of Sri Lanka and Jeetan Patel of New Zealand, both whom have been appointed to England’s coaching staff at stages, and got the nod for the second Test ahead of Leach and Lancashire’s Matthew Parkinson.
Now, on the back of eight wickets in two Tests and some more miserly bowling to go with them, he looks set for an extended run as England’s number one spinner with the red ball even if he does not play at Johannesburg.
There is speculation that he may well miss out on a place in this Test given the fast and bouncy nature of the pitch, with seamer Jofra Archer potentially taking his place and forming part of an all seam attack.
But, of the bowler who debuted in 2017, playing two Tests against Pakistan, Tattersall said: “He’s just been waiting to get that opportunity, and he’s bowled well in both Tests he’s played.
“I don’t know whether he’d have thought he would play, but circumstances come up and you can only do your best. That’s what he’s done.
“Playing with him a bit last year, it’s clear he’s a real competitor and a fighter. He’s willing to do the dirty work for the team. He reaped the rewards of that at Port Elizabeth with his five wickets having had to work hard at Cape Town in the Test beforehand.
“I spoke to him a little bit when he was here, and he had found it difficult going from playing Test cricket (in 2017) to not getting in Somerset’s first team through Jack Leach playing ahead of him.
“It’s a big drop off from playing in a Test to going to the seconds, and I reckon it would have been a kick in the teeth for him.
“But it’s just what his character’s like that he’s fought back to where he is.
“Full credit to him for sticking to his guns and looking to get better. The only way you will do that in this game is to play, which he did by coming to us and bowling a lot of overs in the Championship and T20.
“He’s someone who just wants to learn and get better, which was evident when he came here. The amount of time he puts into his game is outstanding. He’s a thoroughly nice bloke to go along with it.”
Tattersall went on: “Dom’s got that ability to do both roles as a spinner. He’s always been able to take wickets having played on the pitches he does at Taunton, but it seems like he’s got that bit more consistent at tying up an end. That’s what he did so well at Cape Town.
“He played a big part in the 20 wickets taken, mainly by the seamers. Then, as I said earlier, he got his rewards for that at Port Elizabeth (5-51 in the first innings).”
Even if Bess is left out on Friday, he will almost certainly return for March’s two-Test series in Sri Lanka.
Tattersall added: “It’s given them (England’s management) a selection headache for when Leach is available, and even for Somerset at the start of the county season. It will be interesting to see what happens.
“But with Dom’s character, even if he does get some more setbacks, I’m sure he will keep coming through the other side.”