South Africa coach Mark Boucher said on Sunday he needed to take responsibility for what is heading to be a humiliating defeat in the third Test against England at St George’s Park.
England captain Joe Root produced a Test-best bowling performance, taking four for 31 as South Africa ended the fourth day still 188 runs short of avoiding an innings defeat with only four wickets left.
They finished a day marked by a largely woeful batting performance on 102 for six after being forced to follow on.
England now seem assured of taking an unbeatable 2-1 series lead into the final Test starting in Johannesburg on Friday.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Boucher. “Ultimately I’ve got to take responsibility for the performance of the team -– how do I mentally and physically upskill these guys in a short period of time to make them better players?”
Responding to comments that South African cricket was at its lowest ebb since unity in 1991, Boucher responded: “That’s a big call. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions.
“I’ve been in teams where we’ve been pretty low as well. Yes, we’re in a bad situation in this particular game but we’re not out of the series yet. I have to find a way to get the guys ready for tomorrow and for the last Test match as well.”
With speculation mounting about the future of captain Faf du Plessis, who has been out of form in recent months, Boucher tacitly admitted that the player was struggling.
“His state of mind is going to be a lot better when he scores runs.”
Du Plessis top-scored with 36 in the second innings.
“We all know he’s under pressure from the media and from a confidence point of view so the positive for me today is that he actually got out there today and gave himself a chance,” said Boucher.
“He looked like he had some rhythm in a really tough situation. I’m sure he’ll take a lot of confidence from the fact that he faced quite a few balls and got to spend some time in the middle.”
– ‘Wrapped up like a mummy’ –
AFP / Richard Huggard
Out of the way: Vernon Philander ducks during Sunday’s play
When Du Plessis was sixth out with the total on 73 South Africa were in danger of suffering their worst defeat against England but Vernon Philander and Keshav Maharaj survived until the close to reduce the margin below the record of an innings and 202 runs suffered in South Africa’s first season of Test cricket in 1888/89.
England dominated the day despite a second lengthy rain break in two days.
They needed only 28 balls to dismiss South Africa’s last four batsmen for the addition of a single run at the start of play, with Stuart Broad picking up three of the wickets without conceding a run.
South Africa were all out for 209 and Root immediately enforced the follow-on.
Rain early in South Africa’s second innings threatened to thwart England’s push for victory but fast bowler Mark Wood struck twice when play resumed more than three hours later.
Wood used his extreme pace to send Dean Elgar’s off stump flying out of the ground before he had Zubayr Hamza feeling for a ball outside his leg stump to present a catch to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.
“I love it,” Wood said of his return to Test cricket after almost a year out of the side and his first match of any type since being injured in the World Cup final last July.
“I’m wrapped up like a mummy in my left leg,” he said of the strapping aimed at preventing further injuries.
“Bowling Elgar was a great feeling.”
Root took the next four wickets, bowling from the same end from where fellow off-spinner Dom Bess took five wickets in the first innings.
“He bowled himself at the right end, didn’t he?,” joked Wood.
“He does get key wickets when he bowls and he’s been working at it in the nets. At practice he’s been doing a lot more bowling.”