Jonathan Agnew: Batsmen let England down at The Oval

By Jonathan AgnewBBC cricket correspondent
Matt Prior
Matt Prior

England's batting let them down against South Africa, and it means they are chasing the series following their innings defeat at The Kia Oval.

It's easier to accept being beaten if everyone has given it their best to save the match, but you only have to look at some of the shots they played to get out and it's clear they gifted a lot of their wickets to South Africa.

It's a problem which goes back a bit further than this Test. It's not been a good year for England's batsmen - they were beaten 3-0 by Pakistan in the UAE over the winter and drew in Sri Lanka.

They have not been as solid and consistent as they need to be to retain their number one Test ranking.

It all started to go wrong on the final day when Ravi Bopara got out within the first 30 minutes, playing another poor shot.

Bopara had an opportunity to really cement his position in the team, to knuckle down and show that he has the temperament, nous and discipline to play Test cricket.

We have seen him score hundreds before but there is always that question mark about how switched on he is - and he played another bad shot to get out.

You must sell your wicket dear when you are trying to save a Test; you certainly don't start trying to force the ball off the back foot with both feet off the ground.

The selectors won't drop him - that is not the way to do it - but he has fallen to two poor dismissals in this match.

However, he's not alone. If you look at the reasons why England lost this match, it has been just as much about how the batsmen have gifted their wickets as how South Africa didn't.

I can't really criticise Ian Bell because he knuckled down in the second innings and played the type of innings that was needed. He adapted his game and batted well.

But Matt Prior was out sweeping, not a good shot to play in a match-saving position when you have a leg-spinner bowling into the rough.

It's not good shot selection and that has been the difference. Against good teams like South Africa, you get knocked off.

and that is probably the one ground in the country you would pick to try and win a game because it helps the bowlers.

However, that means England have to be even more disciplined with the bat and really value their wickets.

They need to be more switched on because, ultimately, their success or failure will come down to the application of their batsmen.

Listen to analysis of each day's play with Jonathan Agnew and Geoffrey Boycott on the TMS podcast.

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