England crushed as mystery illness takes hold
South Africa desperately needed a win to regain their confidence after five successive Test defeats, plus a poor World Cup, and beating England in the first Test was just the tonic, says captain Faf du Plessis.
"It's been a tough year for the Test team and it's been a while since our last victory but we trained hard and there was a good feeling in the camp that we had done some really good preparation before the Test match," he said after the home side's 107-run victory to go ahead in the four-match series.
"We knew we needed to put in some performances to get the engine running and I thought that, in all departments, we were really good in this Test match.
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"England were good at stages as well, but the way we played, especially in the last two days when the wicket did get a little bit flatter, the way the guys' skill was remarkable and consistent all the time, made it a good start.
"That's what we needed: a good start to get our confidence back as a Test team. We are very happy as a Test team as we sit here now."
South Africa last won a Test in their 3-0 series victory against Pakistan in January but then lost 2-0 at home to Sri Lanka and were comprehensively thumped in India in October.
"As a team we don't have a lot of superstars and as a team you take a lot more from victories where everyone contributes in their own way," Du Plessis added.
He pointed to 40 runs in the second innings from nightwatchman Anrich Nortje as an example.
"That was really pleasing because those are the things that lift a team.
"Our bowling unit was exceptional. All of them put their hand in when the wicket didn't dry out and they needed to be top of their game," he added.
South Africa take on England in the second match at Newlands, from January 3-7.
ENGLAND REFUSE TO BLAME ILLNESS
Captain Joe Root has refused to blame the virus that swept through the England camp for their first Test defeat by South Africa but says a healthier touring team would be better placed for Friday's second of the four-match series.
Ten England players and four support staff had been laid up at one time or another over the last 15 days since the side arrived in South Africa as mystery bug hit the squad, hampering their performance as they lost by 107 runs at Centurion Park.
Several were quarantined, including Ollie Pope, who missed out on playing, and key bowlers Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad battled to be fit in time for the opener at Centurion Park.
"We are not going to hide behind that as an excuse but a lot of our squad have been taken ill over the last two weeks," Root said after England were dismissed for 268 in their second innings on the fourth day.
"We've had to deal with a lot; Ben (Stokes) in particular with that horrible thing with his father."
Stokes' father suffered a stroke soon after arriving in Johannesburg to watch his son play but is now out of intensive care.
"So there has been a lot thrown at the squad over the last weeks and I think everyone has tried to deal with it as best they can," Root added.
"There are certain things you try to control but some that you can't. We've done very well that it did not affect as many it could.
"It was frustrating but it has happened now and hopefully the illness has now passed the camp and we can all be fighting fit and ready to go for Cape Town and bounce back very quickly from this match."
Root said his team had shown much fight and character but mostly from a position of adversity.
"We have to show that from the start of the game too and when we get a chance to turn the screws we need to take it, both with bat and ball," he said.
"That is where this game was won and lost and we are going to have to learn our lesson very quickly."