Head coach Chris Silverwood believes the future looks bright for his England side after their triumphant display in Cape Town.
A 189-run win over South Africa in the second Test, delivered late on the fifth day by three wickets from man of the hour Ben Stokes, squared the series 1-1 and handed Silverwood his first success in the job.
Having lost two and drawn one of his first three matches since taking over from Trevor Bayliss, it was a special moment for the former paceman, whose only victory in his six Test appearances came in the 2000 tour of South Africa.
Stokes was an obvious focal point at Newlands, blowing away the tail with an inspired burst of reverse swing to finish things off with just 8.2 overs remaining, but Silverwood was just as pleased with his less experienced players.
Zak Crawley and Sam Curran are both 21, with Ollie Pope and Dom Bess just a year older, and all left their mark on England’s first win in Cape Town since 1957.
“We’ve had a tough couple of weeks leading up to this and to come out and see a team performance like we have there, especially from some of the youngsters, I’m absolutely thrilled and proud of them,” he said.
“We had four players 22 or under and we saw all of them perform at some stage during this Test match. I think it shows we have a bright future and if we keep building, let the foundations set and keep believing in what we’re doing, hopefully we’ll continue to see these guys continue to be successful and build a team around them.
“Not everything is going to work straight away but I think what we have seen over a period of time are things falling into place and hopefully we can keep building on that.”
In Stokes, England’s next generation could not wish for a better role model. A fierce trainer, ruthless competitor and now a habitual match-winner, the all-rounder is raising the bar across the board.
“When it gets tough he’s the one you want in there – he fights and he doesn’t know how to give up,” added Silverwood.
“He did it again for us here. He picked the ball up, charged in and made things happen for us. It’s an inspiration for everyone around him. His energy gets everyone going.
“I think for any young kid coming in to see how he does things gives them a real realisation of actually this is what it takes to play international cricket. And he’s setting the standards from a fitness point of view. His attitude, time and time again is superb. He’s a great talisman.”
One of England’s new kids on the block, Bess, was not even expecting to be in South Africa and only joined the squad as cover for Somerset team-mate Jack Leach.
Having impressed in the nets he earned a third Test cap, 18 months after his previous two, and picked up two wickets in 60 overs of tight off-spin.
“Three and a half weeks ago if you’d told me that I was going to play in Cape Town, win a Test match, bowl a lot and go quite well, I’d have bitten your hand off,” he said of his unexpected chance.
“It has been a hell of a ride. I played the Test matches in 2018 and did alright but then fell off the radar a little bit. Within myself I lost a lot of confidence in my game. I’ve just been gradually building that back up and became a lot more realistic about things.
“I’m only 22 so I’ve got time on my side, but to get that luck to be here and to take that opportunity is just amazing. I’m just bloody happy that we’ve won a Test match and I’m a part of it.”