Former captains Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain were critical of England’s decision not to bat after winning the toss on the first morning at Centurion.
South Africa recovered from 111-5 to post 284 on day one of the Test, before England were bowled out for just 181 to hand the hosts a first-innings lead of 103.
Root and Rory Burns briefly gave England hope of chasing a record 376 in their final innings but South Africa broke the tourists’ resistance to secure a comfortable win and take a 1-0 lead in the four-match series.
‘It’s been a really tough week off the field,’ Root said at the post-match presentation. ‘Pretty much everything has been thrown at the group.
‘We’ve had 10 guys go down ill. They have stood up and tried to put in the best performance possible.
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‘It’s not been long since we’ve seen similar chases. We got ourselves in a position at lunch. We were fully confident we could chase those runs down.
‘The 7-39 in the first innings was where the game was won and lost. It’s disappointing, but pleasing to be better in the second innings.
‘I still think the toss was a 50-50 call. At 111-5, there was an opportunity to get ahead of the game.
SOUTH AFRICA WIN BY 107 RUNS!
Rabada wraps it up with his fourth, Broad comprehensively bowled. England 268 all out and the Proteas go 1-0 up in the four-match series.
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) December 29, 2019
‘Hopefully that’s the end of the illness, so we can bounce back strong.’
In beating England, South Africa ended a five-match losing run and captain Faf du Plessis said: ‘We needed that. The last couple of months has been tough for us.
‘We haven’t won a Test match in a while. We’ve got a happy everyone in the dressing room. That’s the best feeling in the world – winning a Test match.
‘It was a very, very good Test match – two teams fighting hard all the way. Today’s effort was incredible. We worked really hard. The bowling this whole Test match was very good.’
England coach Chris Silverwood, meanwhile, added: ‘It was a difficult challenge, but we had high hopes this morning.
‘We backed ourselves but to score that many runs, especially with everything that has gone on, was tough.’