South Africa took advantage of an abject England batting display to complete a crushing 340-run win in the second Test at Trent Bridge, which levelled the series 1-1 with two games remaining.
The defeat was Joe Root’s first as captain in his second game in charge, and England’s eighth loss in 13 matches but it was the manner of their capitulation inside 45 overs and with a day and a half to spare that was most concerning.
Instead of mounting the required rearguard action, England collapsed to 133 all out, with the last three wickets falling without the addition of a run.
The wickets were shared among four bowlers with man-of-the-match Vernon Philander (3-24), Keshav Maharaj (3-42) and Chris Morris (2-7) taking the honours.
South Africa outplayed England in every aspect of the game, with the tourists’ first innings lasting one ball longer, at 96.2 overs, than England’s two combined.
Hopes that England might chase down a world-record 474 runs for victory were dispelled by the second over when Philander removed Keaton Jennings’ off-stump, following up soon afterwards by trapping Gary Ballance lbw.
Both Jennings (3) and Ballance (4) will find their positions under pressure after contributing just 44 and 85 runs respectively in four innings this series.
With their departure, England looked to Root and former captain Alastair Cook for resistance but the excellent Morris claimed both batsmen before lunch, bowling Root (8) and bouncing out Cook (42) with a vicious lifter.
The hosts fell away alarmingly after the interval when Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali surrendered their wickets to poor shots while Philander removed the dangerous Ben Stokes with the sharpest of return catches.
The final indignity came when Stuart Broad, Mark Wood and Jimmy Anderson all fell on 133.
Root tried to brush off the loss.
“It has been a tough week. We weren’t good enough with the bat for the whole game. We prepared very well and had two good practice days,” Root said.
England have delayed selection ahead of the third Test, which starts at the Oval on July 27, and could make changes.
By contrast, South Africa’s captain Faf du Plessis was delighted, dedicating the win to absent coach Russell Domingo, who missed the game following a family bereavement.
“It was for Russell,” he said.