England thrashed by South Africa as tourists bounce back to level Test series

Two matches. That’s how long it has taken for Joe Root’s honeymoon as Test captain to end after this abject 340-run defeat by South Africa.

Before we address how poor England have been during this second Test, it is worth pointing out that their opponents were excellent.

Starting this fourth day needing ten wickets for a series-levelling victory, South Africa’s bowlers did the job with four-and-a-half sessions of the match to spare after ruthlessly preying upon England’s weaknesses to become the first touring team to win a Test at Trent Bridge in a decade.

This is an attack we must remember that is missing Kagiso Rabada, the brilliant 22-year-old fast bowler who was banned for this Test.

The prospect of Rabada coming back to complement Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Chris Morris for next week’s third Test at The Oval should be enough to give those England batsmen who survive this horror show nightmares.

England had hoped a change of leadership, with Root taking over from Alastair Cook, would help the team find a new sense of purpose following a winter of sub-continental torture that concluded with a 4-0 humbling in India.

Root may have started his tenure with a crushing 211-run win against these opponents at Lord’s. However, all that success really did was paper over the faults of a team who lost a record-equalling eight Tests in 2016.

This felt worse than any of those. It will take time for Root to put his stamp on the job.

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Joe Root looks back at his stumps after being bowled by Chris Morris (Getty)

However, he needs to be helped by those around him – namely coach Trevor Bayliss and the other selectors.

Put simply, what is required for England is not only a change in personnel but of mindset too.

On the personnel front there clearly needs to be changes for next week’s decisive third Test at The Oval.

Tasked with batting 184 overs to save the game they lasted just 44.2 as they were routed for 133. The game may have been lost for England on the second day, when they were dismissed for 205 to concede a first-innings advantage of 130.

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Ben Stokes reacts after being caught and bowled by Vernon Philander (Getty)

But some kind of application needed to be shown in this second innings to attain a level of respectability in defeat that would not leave the team completely demoralised heading into the final two Tests.

That proved beyond a batting line-up who are carrying two players in Keaton Jennings and Gary Ballance.

Neither are good enough technically or mentally to prosper at Test level and that was evident on the fourth morning when both were dismissed inside the first eight overs of the day as England slipped to 28 for two.

Philander removed both, Jennings bowled through the gate in the second over of the day for three.

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Keaton Jennings is bowled by Vernon Philander for three runs (Getty)

The Durham opener’s average after two Tests of this series stands at 11.

Ballance followed, trapped lbw on review after being caught in his crease yet again. Root accepted responsibility for the decision to recall his Yorkshire team-mate. He must now accept that after three goes at Test cricket, Ballance isn’t good enough.

England went into lunch on 79 for four, thanks to two excellent deliveries from Morris, who first bowled Root with an exquisite 87 miles-per-hour yorker and then had Cook caught behind from a near-unplayable bouncer.

The afternoon session, though, is where we need to address England’s other area of glaring weakness – their mindset.

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Only Alastair Cook offered any resistance before being Chris Morris got him (Getty)

Since coming into the job in the summer of 2015, Bayliss has espoused a preference for his team to adopt an aggressive attitude when batting. This is all well and good when the situation is right.

However, Test cricket is a game that ebbs and flows and whose pace, direction and rhythm fluctuates from hour to hour, session to session and day to day.

The teams who cope with its unique demands best are those that succeed. England appear unable to do that – evidenced by the atrocious shot from Jonny Bairstow shortly after lunch that saw him launch spinner Keshav Maharaj straight to the fielder at mid-on.

Moeen Ali followed Bairstow’s lead, caught sweeping Maharaj to square leg as England slumped to 122 for six.

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South Africa proved far too good for the hapless hosts (AFP)

Philander accounted for Ben Stokes with another decent delivery that engineered a smart caught and bowled chance.

From there proceedings took on a grim inevitability as Stuart Broad, slogging Maharaj to Morkel in the deep, Mark Wood, guiding Duanne Olivier to gully, and James Anderson, edging the same bowler behind, all came and went as England hurtled towards defeat.

In all the final five wickets fell for just 11 runs in 29 balls.

The last man standing for England was Liam Dawson, unbeaten on five. However, the experiment with the left-arm spinner, another out of his depth at Test level, surely also needs to be shelved now if England are to have any hope of winning this series.

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