Skipper Alastair Cook felt England’s first Test series win on foreign soil in two years had been coming.
Cook’s side have not won series on their last two tours overseas, against West Indies and Pakistan respectively, but resounding victories in Durban and Johannesburg saw them brush aside number-one ranked South Africa to triumph for the first time since defeating India in their back yard in 2014.
England took key moments by the scruff of the neck against the Proteas, highlighted by Joe Root’s century and Stuart Broad’s 6-17 at the Wanderers, something they had struggled to do in the United Arab Emirates in a 2-0 defeat to Pakistan late last year.
“It started, in one sense, from Pakistan where we played some good cricket and didn’t quite get the rewards,” Cook explained to ecb.co.uk. “We certainly got them here in these three games.
“You don’t want to get too carried away with everything. We have played some good cricket in these six weeks, we beat South Africa A by an innings.
“We dominated the three Test matches, if we are brutally honest. Some brilliant performances, pleased for the guys.”
Cook was as taken aback as anyone yesterday when Broad ensured a dramatic three-day win with a sensational spell of bowling.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Cook said. “Coming to the ground today, I didn’t think we would be doing interviews like this.
“I’m really proud of the guys, the way they have gone about their business on tour. It has been a tough tour, it is always hard to come to South Africa, the number-one side in the world, but we have played some really good cricket, some fantastic cricket.
“The guys have be proud of their efforts, and the support staff as well.”
Broad took remarkable figures of 6-17 from 12.1 overs, triggering an afternoon collapse from the hosts with five wickets for one run in 31 balls, to give England a victory target of just 74.
“I think it is seven times now he has got a five-for in one spell. It just clicked for him. I think he smelt blood,” Cook said. “He thought ‘this is the time to strike’ and full credit to him.
“It is a privilege to captain him and Jimmy, time and time they perform for England, and backed up by Finny and Stokesy. They are pretty good guys to come on. Those two are more than just chip-in bowlers.
“At the moment Jimmy and Stuart will take the headlines for 429 wickets and 330 wickets but the time will come when they unfortunately won’t be playing for England and we have got people ready made to step up.
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“Finny will be an outstanding bowler for England for a long time.”
Cook was keen to praise the effort of Root after the batsman’s ninth Test hundred, and arguably his best, steered England away from danger on the second day.
The Yorkshireman, with his side in trouble at 22 for two and 91 for four, joined forces with Ben Stokes and took the attack to the Proteas with a counter-punching stand of 111 in 97 deliveries during 78 explosive minutes.
“It was a really strange wicket because, although I was out for 18 in the first innings, you felt there was a ball with your name on it,” Cook added. “But if they missed their lengths you could score.
“He played brilliantly, absolutely brilliantly, and was supported by Stokesy. At 90 for four, to get a hundred partnership off I don’t know how many overs it was, it wasn’t many, to get us back in the game was brilliant.
“It is wrong to single out people. Broady will take the headlines for his amazing spell of bowling but this series has not been about one or two people, it has been a group effort.”