South Africa 335 (Amla 78, de Kock 68, Philander 54, Anderson 5-72) and 343 for 9 dec (Amla 87, Elgar 80, du Plessis 63, Moeen 4-78) beat England 205 (Root 78, Maharaj 3-21, Morris 3-38) and 133 (Philander 3-24, Maharaj 3-42) by 340 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The excellence of South Africa’s pace attack turned the Trent Bridge Test into a rout as England were dismissed in only 44.2 overs, their hopeless pursuit of a world-record 474 to win on a deteriorating pitch transformed with indecent haste into a 340-run defeat.
Faf du Plessis missed South Africa’s defeat at Lord’s to be at the birth of his first child but he has supervised a staggering turnaround at Trent Bridge, where England had not lost since 2007, which told not just of South Africa’s skill but invited increasing questions about England’s ability to perform when the going gets tough.
England’s coach Trevor Bayliss, appointed primarily because of his reputation in the limited-overs cricket, has now overseen a sequence of seven defeats in England’s last 10 Tests. A 4-0 trouncing in India was embarrassing enough, but this feckless batting display will probably attract the loudest condemnation of all.
Data suggests no surface degenerates more reliably than Trent Bridge in Tests in England – and that is normally no bad thing – and South Africa made voracious use of their opportunity, removing England’s top four by lunch and then rushing through the rest of the scorecard in unconstrained fashion.
This is an England batting line-up that at its best can be highly entertaining, but which gives the impression it can only swim with the tide. Joe Root, two matches into his Test captaincy, must gather together resolve if his first series in charge is not to end in defeat.
South Africa’s new-ball attack, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, were at the peak of their game and this time they gained excellent support from Chris Morris with only Duanne Olivier, an unimpressive stand-in for Kagiso Rabada, failing to pose a perpetual threat.
Philander repeatedly battered away on an excellent line and length as if determined to wear his own hole in the pitch, Morkel possessed uncomfortable bounce and Morris mixed up bouncers and yorkers with alacrity as England struggled to muster resistance.
England had a single to their name overnight. It felt utterly worthless; their defeat looked only a matter of time. Perhaps they could have planted it and hoped it germinated, or framed it and put it on the wall. Wickets would not be long delayed. By the time the lunch clock brought temporary release, they had careered 79 for 4. Only 16.2 overs later it was all over.
Alastair Cook put up most England resistance, scrambling 42 from 76 balls before he became the fourth England batsman dismissed, hurried by Morris’ excellent bouncer and punching it away from his face down the leg-side where Quinton de Kock held the catch.
Cook’s Trent Bridge record almost defies belief. In 10 Tests at Nottingham, he averages 21.93, less than half his Test average and has managed a solitary half-century – 50, nothing more, nothing less – against Australia in 2013.
It was asking a lot for him to remedy that on this sort of surface. The sound track of the morning was the rapping of pads and the yelping of South Africa fielders as thick edges dropped wide of slips and flew past gully.
Keaton Jennings got off the mark by hooking a bouncer from Morkel, a show of resolve perhaps, although his shot could have fallen anywhere. He has been in mediocre first-class form all summer which did not inspire confidence. He fell in the second over of the morning, Philander wasting no time in creating a gap between bat and pad to bowl him.
Gary Ballance never got out of his ditch. His only scoring shot careered unhealthily through gully, off Philander. He required attention from the physio when Morkel struck him on the bottom hand. Pushing warily forward to Philander, he fell lbw.
South Africa’s successful review, to win the lbw decision was a model of grown-up conversation. They had lost a review in the previous over – Cook narrowly surviving because of Morkel’s high bounce – and du Plessis demanded responsible information as he might if lives were at stake.
Philander, who delivers from so close to the stumps that his chances of lbw are heightened, was adamant, the captain conceded and the wicket was theirs.
Root, the captain, played inside a swinging yorker from Morris. Another excellent delivery from a South Africa attack hunting England down with admirable skill.
If England’s top three includes two players whose Test match aptitude must now be in question, their middle-order, so destructive at times, seems unable – or unwilling – to adjust to the more controlled tempo of Test cricket’s more demanding days, traipsing through the most hazardous streets as if it was a suitable place for a picnic.
Jonny Bairstow’s self-admonishment was clear as he tried to hit Keshav Maharaj’s left-arm spin down the ground and only succeeded in dragging it to deep mid-on. Moeen Ali, who gives the impression that he has two gears – marked enjoyment and boredom – reached 27 with his usual sang-froid and then top-edged a sweep at the same bowler to Heino Kuhn in front of square.
At least Ben Stokes showed a willingness to buckle down, not for the first time, before pushing back a wary drive at Philander.
The end was rapid, as if England’s three pace bowlers, still aching from their work on the third day, had observed the efforts of the batsmen on the fourth and decided they had seen enough.
Stuart Broad indulged in a slog-sweep and was lucky only to get a groan from his home crowd, and, lo and behold, Olivier wrapped things up with two in two. Mark Wood spliced to gully, James Anderson poked to the keeper.
At the on-field press conference, du Plessis looked like a man you would not mess with and Root looked as if he needed to become that man overnight.
The series swung markedly from England to South Africa and conceivably in the last two Tests it could swing back again. But it is South Africa who look ingrained in the ways of Test cricket.
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.