In Depth

England cricketers hammered by South Africa - and the media

Joe Root suffers a chastening 340-run thrashing in the second Test as his batsmen come under fire

England's batsmen have come under renewed fire following a humiliating 340-run defeat to South Africa in the second Test at Trent Bridge.

It was an abrupt end to Joe Root's honeymoon period as captain as his side were bowled out for just 133 yesterday having already been dismissed for 205 in the first innings.

Only opener Alastair Cook showed the necessary application in the face of fine bowling from Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel with Geoffrey Boycott characteristically critical of their approach in the Daily Telegraph.

"We never know what the England batsmen will dish up. It is either flamboyant, edge of the seat cricket or rubbish. They go from one extreme to the other. One match they can look like world beaters, next their brains have gone out the window. It is as if they can't think or adapt to different pitch conditions and can only bat in a 'gung ho' attacking manner. If they do not learn to think and change occasionally they will always keep flattering us with wins and horrible losses."

Root had made the perfect start as Test captain after succeeding Cook when he scored 190 in the first innings at Lord's to lay the foundations for a comprehensive 211-run victory over the tourists.

Now he is faced with some big decisions ahead of the third Test at the Oval next week with the form of Keaton Jennings and his Yorkshire team-mate Gary Ballance under scrutiny.

Ballance's return to the international fold after a prolific start to the summer in county cricket has been inauspicious to say the least while Jennings is averaging just 11 after four Test innings this summer.

"A top three of Cook, Jennings and Ballance is asking for trouble, especially against excellent bowlers to left-handers, as [Morne] Morkel and [Vernon] Philander are," says Mike Atherton in The Times.

"Once again, Root walked to the crease trying to repair a damaged situation, after Philander's brilliant opening spell had accounted for Jennings and Ballance.

"England have now lost six Tests in their last eight. They are unpredictable, entertaining at times, abject at others and very flawed. Whether this is what Tom Harrison, the chief-executive of the ECB, was hoping for when he called for style over substance and entertainment over results upon appointing the new captain is uncertain."

And it's not just the batsmen who are in the spotlight. England will almost certainly have to shake up their bowling attack too with the ineffective Mark Wood a doubt for the Oval due to a heel injury and spinner Liam Dawson looking out of his depth at international level.

"South Africa are now so much better placed in this series," says Vic Marks of The Guardian."They surely know their best team. It is fanciful to suggest that England are in the same position after this dire performance."

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