December 28, 2019 / 5:14 PM / 25 days ago

England bank on Root, Buttler overcoming illness

PRETORIA (Reuters) - England are hoping a good night’s rest for both captain Joe Root and wicketkeeper Jos Buttler will see them recover for Sunday’s play as they chase an unlikely victory in the first test against South Africa at Centurion Park.

Cricket - South Africa v England - First Test - Supersport Park, Centurion, South Africa - December 27, 2019 England's Joe Root in action REUTERS/Rogan Ward

Both players battled on Saturday with the illness that has hampered England since their arrival in South Africa but they will be needed for the fourth day where the game is set for a dramatic finish.

England, 121-1 at stumps at the end of the third day, require another 255 runs to win with nine wickets standing, after being set an improbable victory target of 376.

“They’ll both benefit from a night’s sleep. If we had been three or four wickets down, it would have been a bit of a struggle for them,” said England batting coach Graham Thorpe.

“It’s a long shot but we want to give it a good go. We’ve given ourselves a fighting chance.

“There is belief in our dressing room and we’ll keep fighting all the way.”

Buttler did not take the field on Saturday as he became another victim of the virus that has ravaged the camp, leaving Jonny Bairstow to take over the gloves.

Root left the field twice in Saturday’s morning session as he also battled with fever and stomach problems, team officials said.

Several players and staff have been taken ill since arriving a fortnight ago.

Bowlers Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad and Jack Leach missed out on the two warm-up games before the start of the first test with spinner Leach still quarantined at the team’s hotel.

Ollie Pope was also struck down and missed out on a chance to play in the first test, although Archer and Broad recovered in time to be selected.

Chris Woakes fell ill on the eve of the test and Mark Wood reported sick on Thursday, although neither were expected to play at Pretoria.

England officials said the pair are also separated from their teammates at their hotel.

Editing by Ian Chadband

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