England coach Peter Moores refused to condemn his side last night after another woeful batting display left them facing a series defeat against South Africa.
Captain Michael Vaughan’s golden duck typified a miserable first day of the third Test for England, who managed just 231 runs before being dismissed by the tourists.
Recalled one-day skipper Paul Collingwood fared little better than Vaughan, going for four, while the innings ended in farce with two runouts.
England’s only bright spot was Andrew Flintoff, who hit a battling 36 not out and dismissed Graeme Smith for seven late on to leave South Africa on 38-1 at stumps.
That was scant consolation after the 10-wicket mauling in the second Test at Headingley, but Moores insisted the match was far from lost.
“We are disappointed after a decent start we didn’t push on but that is what we’ve got and we have got to work with that,” said Moores.
“Getting Smith out was a start for us to claw our way back into the game. “If we bowl them out tomorrow and bat well they have to bat last on the wicket, which will be real pressure.”
Needing a win to square the series and a draw to avoid defeat, England’s solid start fell apart when opener Andrew Strauss stepped on his stumps.
Under-fire Vaughan followed next ball, edging to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher for one of Andre Nel’s three wickets.
Jacques Kallis (3-31) matched that haul, claiming Pietersen for four, before Cook (76) and Bell (50) halted England’s rapid decline.
Flintoff manfully tried to keep the innings alive with a patient 36 off 78 balls, but saw England’s tail end disintegrate.
Tim Ambrose, Ryan Sidebottom, James Anderson and Monty Panesar all went in the space of 19 runs as South Africa sensed another stroll. A glimmer of hope came late on when Smith went, edging Flintoff’s second ball to Strauss.