Proteas v England: Where to now?

Kagiso Rabada (Getty)
Kagiso Rabada (Getty)

Cape Town - They had a bright start, but by the end of the first Test match at Lord's the Proteas were limping. 

Completely outplayed in all departments, the end couldn't come soon enough for the South Africans as they lost wicket after wicket - the inevitability of an embarrassing Test defeat drawing near.  

Dropped catches, a costly missed review, wickets off no-balls, shuffles in the batting order, the Kagiso Rabada suspension, the Vernon Philander injury - this was as bad as it gets. 

It was the first time the Proteas have lost at Lord's since re-admission as 23 years of proud history at the venue went up in smoke. 

By the time they came in for their second innings the wicket was misbehaving regularly, but that is still no excuse for what followed. 

Now, 1-0 down in the series with the second Test starting in a few days, the South African brains trust has a lot to work on and some big selection calls to make. 

Things are further disrupted by the fact that coach Russell Domingo has had to return to South Africa once more to be with his mother, who is in a critical condition following a car accident. 

Faf du Plessis will return for the second Test at Trent Bridge on Friday, and while that is obviously a huge boost for the Proteas, it does create a selection conversation that could be a lot more complicated than it needs to be. 

JP Duminy, simply, has to go. He is out of touch, short on confidence and runs and he is costing his side. 

Du Plessis in for Duminy is the logical switch in the batting order, but whether or not it pans out that way remains to be seen. 

Heino Kuhn struggled on debut, but has to be backed at the top of the order again while Theunis de Bruyn and Temba Bavuma showed promising signs at Lord’s when they shared a 99-run partnership in the first innings. 

All signs point to Duminy being axed. 

The suspension of Kagiso Rabada further complicates team selection.  

Duanne Olivier, Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo are the options, but given the enormity of the situation Phehlukwayo may be ruled out of that equation immediately. 

His first-class experience is limited and to replace Rabada with a youngster who is known for his death bowling and variation in limited overs cricket would be a massive call. 

Olivier is the most like-for-like swap for Rabada. His domestic form has been superb and he is next in line and will surely be given the nod. 

If Philander has any struggles over his hand injury, only then should Morris and Phehlukwayo come into consideration. 

There are some rocky times ahead for this group, but in truth there were concerns going into Lord's. 

Kuhn, as good as he has been at domestic level, was on debut while De Bruyn was playing just his second Test. Both are untested at this level and that showed.

Duminy was, and still is, seriously out of form and without Du Plessis the top order all-of-a-sudden felt fragile. 

South Africa had fought hard with the bat in the first innings, but they needed somebody to step up with a big hundred. That didn’t happen.

In the field in the first innings, they did themselves no favours with dropped catches, ill-discipline and a fundamental lack of common sense hurting them severely. 

Stand-in skipper Dean Elgar chose not to review an LBW shout against Stuart Broad that, replays revealed, was out. Broad was on 0* at the time and would go on to make 57*. 

While it initially looked like the ball was sliding down leg, Philander was adamant it was out. With two reviews left and with just three wickets to get - one of which was No 11 James Anderson - the decision not to go upstairs was puzzling. 

Letting England captain Joe Root off the hook was almost certainly the most costly mistake from a South African perspective. 

Before he was eventually dismissed for 190, Root escaped three big chances. He was spared on 5* as Aiden Markram lost his bearings on the fine-leg boundary, he was dropped by Duminy at gully when he was 16* and then Keshav Maharaj had him stumped off a no-ball on 149*. 

Morkel was also guilty of taking a wicket off a no-ball - the 13th time he has done that in his Test career - when he bowled Ben Stokes. 

The fielding from South Africa was poor throughout, and that was highlighted by Philander dropping an absolute sitter when Jonny Bairstow had just come to the crease in the second innings. Bairstow would go on to make 51. 

South Africa has always been a side that prides itself on its fielding, but this performance at Lord's suggested otherwise. 

After having England 82/4 on the first morning, the Proteas were perfectly positioned to turn the screws. 

Instead, they let England off the hook. 

While the second innings collapse was the final act, it was South Africa’s sloppiness in the field that ultimately cost them this Test match.

While selection is obviously the major issue this week, it is also important that the Proteas are honest with themselves. 

They were poor; poorer than they have been for a long time in Test cricket. 

South Africa's bowling performance in the second innings showed that, if they get Root early and take their chances, they can get on top of this England batting line-up. 

But the basic errors that plagued the South African bowling and fielding performance throughout this Test have to go. 

The shining light is that they have their leader back, and if ever there was a time for Du Plessis to prove his worth in that regard, this is it. 

Follow Sport24 journalist @LloydBurnard on Twitter...

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