Pretoria (South Africa): England captain Joe Root said that he is confident of the team being able to do well in South Africa despite the number of absences cropping up before the start of the series. The first Test starts on Thursday at the Centurion and England are missing many of their biggest stars due to illness.
Fast bowlers Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes and spinner Jack Leach have all contracted a flu-like illness which is spreading in the team. Despite Archer, Broad and Leach being quarantined, Woakes somehow contracted the virus.
All-rounder Ben Stokes, however, practised with the team on Wednesday as a statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board said that Stokes’ father, Ged, remained in intensive care in a Johannesburg hospital but had responded positively to treatment and was in a stable condition.
Ged Stokes, who had travelled to South Africa to watch the cricket, was admitted to hospital on Monday with what was described as a serious illness. Stokes missed practice on Tuesday to be at his father’s bedside.
The statement said the Stokes family thanked people for their support of the family and in particular the medical practitioners who had treated Ged Stokes.
The statement said the three ill players — Jack Leach, Ollie Pope and Chris Woakes — had not been ruled out of selection for the Test.
“It’s been quite frustrating in many ways, but we have to handle it,” Joe Root told reporters ahead of the first Test. “We have to get on with it and make sure that the guys that are selected are ready to go.”
Root believes that the players who have been called in as replacements will be “desperate to prove a point.” Pacer Craig Overton has been called in along with off spinner Dom Bess.
“We are very lucky that we have got a big squad out here and a number of players in a really good place and ready to go,” he said.
“It’s important we use these next two days to make sure everyone is in the best possible place to go and win this game. We have got some very competitive players who will be desperate to prove a point if given the opportunity.”
Root also said that the team is determined to make sure that Stokes and his family get all the support they need.
“It puts things into perspective,” Root said. “We are here to play cricket and to win the series but most importantly we want to make sure that Ben and his family have got all the support they can get. It’s crucial that that comes first.”