England admit their batting fell below the required standards at Trent Bridge, but they still believe they can beat South Africa from a highly-improbable position in the second Investec Test.
James Anderson was the only England bowler to take a wicket – he managed five of the 15 which fell on a hectic second day – but it was England’s batting which let them down as they were bowled out for 205 in little more than 50 overs.
They therefore conceded a first-innings deficit of 130, despite Anderson’s five for 72, and were 205 adrift after South Africa reached 75 for one at stumps second time round.
South Africa seamer Chris Morris wonders already whether that might be enough for victory, depending on the overhead conditions to come in Nottingham.
Anderson, meanwhile, was left ruing a home innings which stumbled almost immediately to three for two and then, despite a briefly successful counter-attack from captain Joe Root (78), faltered terminally as the last six wickets fell for only 62 runs.
“We set ourselves such high standards with the ball and the bat, and we didn’t do ourselves justice today,” said England’s all-time leading wicket-taker.
“It’s frustrating to be bowled out for such a low score.
“But you’re going to have days like that, we have a fairly young side still.
“We’ll try and learn from days like this, not every day is going to be perfect.
“We’ll try and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Anderson acknowledges that only a special performance over the remaining three days can keep England ahead in the series, after their win at Lord’s – but he is not ruling it out.
“We need a couple of people to stand up with the ball to make inroads, and then bat out of our skin in the fourth innings to chase whatever total we are set,” he said.
“There’s plenty of time left in the game – that’s a positive for us. There’s time to fight back.
“There’s plenty of character in this team.
“I know we can do it, it’s just a case of dusting ourselves down tomorrow and doing it.”
They will have to cut out the mistakes which littered their first innings, as Morris (three for 38) and Keshav Maharaj (three for 21) proved too much for them.
Anderson added: “Shot selection is something the batsmen work on all the time, playing the situation, reading the situation, and I don’t think we did that well enough today.
“You could see, every now and then, there was something in the wicket, but if you got yourself in, it’s a fast-scoring ground.
“It’s a quick outfield. So if you beat the in-field it’s generally four – you get value for your shots.
“Maybe we went for one shot too many occasionally.”
Root eventually fell perhaps doing just that, having raced past a 40-ball half-century.
Morris was not surprised to see England adopt those tactics, but not displeased either.
Asked how many more runs South Africa may need to put this match beyond England, he said: “The wicket has a bit of juice in it, a bit of seam … so depending on overhead conditions, 200 could be enough on the right day.
“I think on this wicket you are quite happy with guys coming at you.
“There’s just enough in it for us bowlers to be excited, with the ball swinging and the way the Duke moves around.
“It was a great counter-punch by Joe, really, really good to see, but we don’t mind it.”
All-rounder Morris was especially effective, after Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel had both struck twice each too, and he believes the simple advice he received from returning captain Faf du Plessis was a big help.
“The message was clear from Faf – ‘Be aggressive, and bowl fast’,” he said.
“That cleared any doubt on what I needed to do, and I think it worked today.”