England captain Joe Root played down concerns over his side’s misfiring top order after a comprehensive, series-levelling defeat to South Africa but kept the door open for changes ahead of the third Test.
After kicking off his reign with a handsome victory at Lord’s, Root saw his team humbled at Trent Bridge where they were skittled for 133 in 44.2 overs for a 340-run defeat on Monday.
Doubts over opener Keaton Jennings and Root’s Yorkshire team-mate Gary Ballance are growing rather than receding with each innings, with the pair making 44 and 85 respectively in four knocks apiece.
Root provided some support for the pair in post-match presentation, but hinted their positions were not guaranteed for the Oval Test.
“No, I don’t think it (the top three) is a concern. They just need some runs and to spend some time out in the middle,” he said.
“I’m sure if they get the opportunity to do that in the next game they will go on and make big scores. We’ll sit down with selection and make sure we’re happy with what we have going into the next one.”
Another player potentially looking over his shoulder is paceman Mark Wood.
Goodness me! ENG win last week & they're the greatest. Lose this weak & they're hopeless!— KP (@KP24) July 17, 2017
If you're going to lose, lose properly! 😉
The Durham player returned to the red-ball setup after a two-year injury-enforced absence at the start of this series but has managed just one wicket for 197 runs in two Tests.
Bowling coach Ottis Gibson suggested he had experienced some discomfort in his heel – not his troublesome ankle – but Root is hoping that issue does not develop.
“It’s been a tough week for Woody, really,” he said. “He worked really hard throughout the game and was unfortunate not to pick up many wickets but I can’t fault his efforts, the way he’s gone about it.
“In terms of fitness he came through quite well, so hopefully he’s fit for selection for the next one.”
With the win, South Africa leveled the four-match series at 1-1.
England, set a mammoth 474 runs for victory, collapsed to 133 all out in their second innings 40 minutes before tea on the fourth day.
No England batsman made a fifty in an innings where former captain Alastair Cook’s 42 was the top score.
England, who resumed on one without loss, lost four wickets before lunch and a further six before tea. Man-of-the match Vernon Philander led South Africa’s attack with three wickets for 24 runs in 10 overs, while left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj took three for 42 in 12.
Duanne Olivier ended the match by taking two wickets in two balls to dismiss tailenders Wood and James Anderson.