Leading 1-0 after Durban – the first time in 11 years England have won a series opener away from home against major opposition – England head to Newlands for the second Test on 2 January in buoyant mood and with Jimmy Anderson having a chance to return from injury.
“There is a big opportunity that presents itself when you play like that. It would be great if we can continue to put pressure on South Africa. We’ve got an opportunity now but can we take it?” Cook said.
“Potentially this team can do some really good things. There’s so much talent in this side. We feel balanced, the guys feel happy and really hungry to push on. You see them – from one to 17 in this squad – and I think there’s good times ahead.”
England went into the fifth day at Kingsmead needing six wickets but had not won a series opener away from home since beating Bangladesh in 2010, with the win over South Africa in Port Elizabeth in 2004 the time before that.
Moeen Ali, who was the man of the match, trapped AB de Villiers lbw with the third ball of the morning on his way to figures of three for 47 in the second innings – he took seven wickets in the match – and kick-started a collapse of six for 38 that ended with South Africa, chasing an improbable target of 416, bowled out for 174 before lunch.
Steven Finn, who removed Faf du Plessis in the final over of the fourth day, finished with six wickets in his first Test back following a stress injury to his left foot, with Stuart Broad wrapping up the match when he trapped the No11, Morne Morkel, lbw.
Cook said: “The wicket last night from Finn in the last over was a really big one because Du Plessis has a record of batting a long time with De Villiers. So to get that and Mo producing that third ball to get AB out, you couldn’t ask for a better start could you? It’s never easy bowling on the last day of a Test when it is turning because people are expecting you to take wickets. But the way Mo bowled was fantastic – he bowled brilliantly.
“Every single ball was there or thereabouts and that’s all you can ask for. He can be very proud of his performance under pressure. It’s different from a first innings; the onus on you in the second is to deliver and he did deliver.”
Anderson missed out in Durban because of a calf strain but bowled six overs in practice before the start of play and could come in for his understudy, Chris Woakes, as England look to push on for a 2-0 lead. “I think we’re hopeful he will be fit for Cape Town,” Cook said. “He’s been working extremely hard with the medics and doing his overs so it is looking good. He knows his body better than me so we’ll wait and see.”
South Africa, the world’s No1 team, look set to be without Dale Steyn for the second Test as a result of a shoulder injury. The defeat saw their winless run in Test cricket extend to seven, equalling their worst run since readmission. They have reacted to the defeat by adding the seamer Chris Morris to their squad as cover for Steyn, while calling up the wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock fresh from a century in domestic cricket, in a move that could see De Villiers relieved of the gloves.
When asked about South Africa’s decline, Cook replied: “It’s not for me to talk about. They’ve lost some world-class players and that changes the balance of the side. When you lose people like Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher, they are once-in-a-generation players and hard to replace.”
On the two days between Test matches, he added: “It’s a really short turnaround now – the shortest I’ve ever done – so we’ve got to be careful with the recovery. That’s important. It would be great to get our noses ahead again but it starts level again in Cape Town.
“The danger is the word complacency. That won’t be in our squad – that’s not where we’re at as a side. It can turn very quickly. So let’s not get too carried away.”
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