Joe Root was drawn into a war of words with old mentor and former England captain Michael Vaughan following his team’s crushing 340-run defeat by South Africa in the second Test.
England’s current captain was visibly angered when asked what he thought of Vaughan’s assessment that his team do not “respect” Test cricket after they were bowled out for 133 on the fourth and final day at Trent Bridge.
In all, the hosts batted for just 96.2 overs across the match, one ball fewer than South Africa’s first innings, as they slipped to their eighth defeat in 13 Tests.
“The England batting has been appalling,” Vaughan said on the BBC’s Test Match Special. “Maybe it’s a lack of respect about what the game is. They look like they are playing a Twenty20 game.”
But a shell-shocked Root, captaining England in just his second Test, was unimpressed with those comments from a man he has known since he was a child and who played alongside his father, Matt, for the Sheffield Collegiate club.
“I think that’s very unfair - I can’t believe he’s actually said that to be honest,” said Root.
“We pride ourselves on winning series like this and unfortunately we’ve played poorly this week but the most important thing now is to respond well and make sure we put it right [in next week’s third Test] at The Oval.”
Vaughan was not alone in his criticism, with another former England captain in Nasser Hussain lamenting the “rubbish brand of cricket” this current team are playing right now.
“I want to see people value their wicket,” said Hussain. “If people bowl well, acknowledge it, don’t say ‘we're trying to play a positive brand of cricket'. A score of 133 all out is a rubbish brand of cricket - they are not showing a steely side, something South Africa’s No3, Hashim Amla, has in abundance."
With the series now locked at 1-1 heading into the final two Tests, England must find an answer to the inconsistency that has seen them follow a victory with a defeat on seven occasions since the summer of 2015.
The Lord’s Test, Root’s first match as captain, saw England wrap up a comprehensive 211-run win against South Africa.
But, after this shambolic defeat, he said: “I can’t put my finger on it. I look at the talent in the dressing room and the players we have and it shouldn’t happen like that. It’s something we’ve spoken about and we want to make sure we put it right. That all starts with how we prepare leading into the next Test.”
Changes will surely be considered for that match at The Oval next week, with top-order batsmen Keaton Jennings, Gary Ballance - who scored seven runs between them during England’s second innings - and left-arm spinner Liam Dawson the most vulnerable.
Root said: “We will sit down over the next couple of days. After Lord’s it happened quite quickly which is when we sat down [with the selectors] and decided the squad for this game. It might take a bit longer in terms of getting us all together in the same room, that will be decided when we all catch up.”
Ballance’s participation at The Oval might be in doubt anyway after he was hit on the hand by Morne Morkel on the final day. The Yorkshire batsman has had scans on his left index finger and the results of those are likely to be known overnight.
South Africa captain Faf Du Plessis, meanwhile, hailed Vernon Philander as the new Jacques Kallis after the all-rounder’s five wickets and 96 runs with the bat earned him the man of the match award.
“He’s becoming the new Jacques Kallis the way he’s batting,” said Du Plessis. “His technique is getting very similar.
“He’s a fantastic cricketer. When there’s something there [bowling], he’s probably the best in the world at doing something with it.”