Moeen spins England to victory as Root beds in nicely

New skipper has much to be pleased about as South Africa are beaten 3-1 in his first series in charge

Joe Root, Moeen Ali
Moeen Ali and Joe Root after England's win over South Africa
(Image credit: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)

England wrapped up a 3-1 series win over South Africa at Old Trafford as they clinched the fourth Test by a resounding 177 runs.

After establishing a first innings lead of 136 runs, England were favourites to win. They eventually set the tourists a daunting target of 380 to win the match and, despite a period of stubborn resistance from Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis, South Africa never looked like saving the game.

They were eventually dismissed for 202, with Moeen Ali once again the architect of their downfall, taking five for 38. His haul of 25 wickets and 252 runs over the four Tests deservedly won him the man of the series award.

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Former South African captain Graeme Smith was impressed. "Moeen has shown in this series that he is more than good enough to perform the lead spinner role, and his batting has proved a nagging thorn in South Africa's side – often being the difference between a par score and a good score for his side," he writes in The Independent.

If Moeen could be pleased with his efforts, so could captain Joe Root, says Vic Marks of The Guardian. England's new skipper "passed his first examination with flying colours".

He adds: "Root had established himself as the best batsman the series, his output unencumbered by the captaincy; he had handled his team deftly on and off the field. He has looked comfortable in the job. He is now the man in charge.

"The shortcomings of this England side are obvious... But crucially over the last six weeks Root has been able to maximise the skills of the established players."

If that is a reference to the team's top-order travails, with question marks over opener Keaton Jennings and Dawid Malan at five, then at least England have an insurance policy further down the batting order.

Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen at six, seven and eight are the "heavy gang" and no other team in world cricket can match them, says Geoffrey Boycott in the Daily Telegraph.

"They have talent, flair, power and score so quickly it can be demoralising for a fielding team who think they are through the best batsmen only for the middle order to cream them to all parts of the ground."

Another positive is the team's approach, says Jonathan Liew of the Daily Telegraph, who also bemoans cricket's declining profile on the eve of the new Premier League season.

"This is a talented and entertaining side, still a little dysfunctional in certain areas, but essentially likeable and well-meaning. It possesses fewer objectionable personalities than virtually any England side in memory. On the field, they have the courage of their convictions. Off it, they always have the time for a brief word, for a photograph or an autograph. This really is a jewel of a team. If only more people knew about them."

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