England captain Joe Root wants Ollie Pope to get greedy for Test-match centuries after his man-of-the-match display in Port Elizabeth and believes the batsman can go on to break records.
Root led his side to victory by an innings and 53 runs in the third Test against South Africa, taking a 2-1 lead ahead of Friday’s series decider in Johannesburg.
It took several big performances to get the job done, from Ben Stokes’ brilliant 120, to Dom Bess’ maiden five-wicket haul and Mark Wood’s sustained show of pace on his return to the side.
But it was Pope who walked away with the individual honours, recognition of a stylish 135 not out and six catches in the match.
It was the 22-year-old’s first hundred in his sixth Test appearance and Root believes there should be plenty more to come from a player routinely touted as the country’s next star batsman.
“I think Ollie’s a wonderful player, I really do,” said Root. “I think he’s smart, he reads the game very well and he reads situations very well as we’ve already seen in his short international career.
“I couldn’t be more pleased that he’s sat here with a hundred under his belt already and I want to see another couple at least throughout this winter because he’s more than capable of going on and breaking a number of records for England.”
A delighted @OPope32 gave his immediate reaction to our win in Port Elizabeth! 👏— England Cricket (@englandcricket) January 20, 2020
Root was delighted to preside over the kind of performance England captains dream about but rarely achieve overseas.
Having produced a first-innings score of 499 for nine he was able to both declare and enforce the follow-on, two luxuries which set up the day-five win.
The only frustration might have been his own failure to convert career-best figures of four for 31 into a five-for.
His unsuccessful final spell was costly and wicketless, with a single over going for a joint-Test record of 28 as Keshav Maharaj and Dane Paterson shared a last-wicket stand of 99.
But that did not even begin to take the shine off what a team streaked with young and inexperienced players achieved at St George’s Park.
“It is easy to look at the last hour too closely but we’ll look at the four days that preceded it: we were outstanding, and that’s what we will concentrate on,” he said.
“I thought this was a brilliant template for us moving forward as a team. We made big first-innings runs and then really drove the game from that point onwards.
“There’s going to be bumps in the road and we’re going to get it wrong on occasions, especially with a young group of players. We’re very much at the start of the journey.
“But as long as the group is willing to learn and put it in time and time again – doing the things that aren’t necessarily the most flattering, the difficult things to do in Test cricket – then we’ll be fine.”