England were unable to repeat their summer heroics as South Africa claimed a resounding 107-run victory in the first Test at Centurion.
The tourists were chasing a record 376 on day four, which would’ve eclipsed the 359 they chased down at Headingley back in August.
But despite beginning the day on a promising 121 for one and making a steady start, the loss of Rory Burns for 84 was followed by an all-too predictable batting collapse from England’s middle order.
Questions will again be asked about their lack of any longevity at the crease as Joe Root and his men look towards the second Test of the four-match series in Cape Town next week.
Even Ben Stokes, the starring act in both of those dramas, could not find it in himself to defy cricketing logic one more time.
Against a spirited, talented and united South African attack they were bowled out for 268 late on the fourth afternoon to go 1-0 behind in the four-match series.
Romantics and superstitious fans would have found brief hope in Stokes’ arrival at the crease with 218 runs needed to win – the exact figure required when he strode out at Leeds in August – but his departure for 14, bowled by the left-arm spin of Keshav Maharaj was the biggest body blow of all.
Rory Burns top-scored with 84, only seven of which were made on Sunday, while captain Joe Root contributed a committed 48, but the momentum never really left the Proteas.
Kagiso Rabada claimed four for 103, Anrich Nortje three for 56 and there was sound support from Vernon Philander, Maharaj and Dwaine Pretorius.
Join us at Newlands Cricket Ground on talkSPORT 2 next Friday to see if England can level the series.