Trevor Bayliss (left) and Joe Root    Getty Images
Trevor Bayliss (left) and Joe Root Getty Images

England’s frustrating inconsistency is becoming a major concern for coach Trevor Bayliss. The team’s 340-run thrashing by South Africa in the second Test at Trent Bridge on Monday led to scathing criticism from several former England captains. Michael Vaughan said the way Bayliss’s men batted betrayed a “lack of respect” for the demands of the five-day game. It was also England’s sixth defeat in their last eight Tests and continued a trend under Bayliss where a thumping win England beat South Africa by 211 runs in the series opener at Lord’s as Joe Root enjoyed a victory in his first Test as captain is followed immediately by a huge loss.

England are now 1-1 with two to play ahead of next week’s third Test at The Oval, with a revitalised South Africa keen to maintain an impressive away record that has seen them lose just one of their previous 19 series on foreign soil. ALSO READ: Gary Ballance out of third Test

With doubts persisting about their top-order batting, Australian coach Bayliss knows England must find a way to be able to back-up wins if they are to avoid a roller-coaster defence of the Ashes ‘Down Under’ later this year.

“We’ve had a fairly honest discussion (in the changing room),” he said. “It is a concern.”

Bayliss added the players themselves had to do a fair amount of soul-searching. “If you win one, I put the questions to them. ‘Is it the way we approach the game in that second one? Do we think we don’t have to do anything different?’ We’ll go away over the next few days but when we get together again I’m sure we’ll sit down and have another discussion about it.”

Trusting the selectors

Keaton Jennings, Alastair Cook’s 11th opening partner at the top of the England order since former captain Andrew Strauss retired, has struggled against his native South Africa so far this series.

In-form Surrey batsman Mark Stoneman could be given a debut on his Oval home ground, with Jennings dropping down to three. With South Africa having deployed four quicks and just the one spinner, Keshav Maharaj, to good effect at Trent Bridge, England may follow a similar path by omitting left-armer Liam Dawson and retaining off-spinner Moeen Ali.

Hussain has said England selection should be about more than looking at county figures, citing Ballance’s struggles since his latest Test recall as a case in point.

“Selection is not just about saying ‘Gary Ballance has 1,000 first-class runs so Gary Ballance plays’,” Hussain insisted.

But Bayliss has little else to go on, apart from the opinions of his fellow selectors regarding Stoneman who as with several players prior to their England debuts during his time in charge — he has yet to see play.

“I haven’t seen Stoneman bat live,” said Bayliss, a state of affairs that suggests England ought to look again at their schedule if they are to get full value from their coach’s ability to assess a cricketer. “It’s happened before if we select a guy and I haven’t seen him, you’ve always in the back of your mind got a little bit of … ‘Well, is he or isn’t he?’

“You’ve just got trust the other selectors and some of the senior players we might speak to about who is the next guy in line or what type of a player he is.

“That’s just the nature of the beast at the moment, with the way international cricket is.”

Meanwhile Bayliss disputed criticism from Geoffrey Boycott that England, whose two innings combined at Trent Bridge amounted to fewer than 100 overs in total, had been too attacking with the bat.

Bayliss said it was important players remained “positive” whether their natural game was attacking or defensive but he added: “The one thing we have and we certainly admit — is that whichever way your way is, we’ve got to do it better.”