Nasser Hussain has called on Keaton Jennings and Gary Ballance to ‘show some character’ and prove they deserve to be in the England side in the second innings at Trent Bridge.
After the hosts’ batting collapse on day two, South Africa are in pole position to level the series with England requiring an unlikely 472 runs to win.
The spotlight will once again be on Jennings and Ballance, neither of whom have passed 35 in their four Test innings so far this summer.
Jennings burst onto the scene last winter, scoring 112 on debut against India, but struggled in the County Championship earlier in the summer and has looked susceptible against the swinging ball.
Ballance, meanwhile, was given a third chance for England after earning a recall to the side – much thanks to his Yorkshire team-mate Joe Root.
While England are almost certainly set to suffer defeat at Trent Bridge, former captain Hussain says Jennings and Ballance have an opportunity to show their potential.
‘It’s time to show that they’re international players,’ he told Sky Sports. ‘Jennings scored a hundred on debut but has come off the boil since then.
‘Ballance scored a lot of runs when he first came into the side but recently hasn’t looked good enough.
‘Even if you don’t win the game, those two need to show some fight and character ahead of the rest of the series.’
South Africa were bowled out for 335 in the first-innings but the tourists enjoyed a lead of over 130 after Root’s side made just 205.
Former England bowler Bob Willis felt the hosts got their approach horribly wrong as they lost their last six wickets for 62 runs.
‘We hear all about this aggressive approach and we’ve seen it in Twenty20 and one-day cricket, but they take it too far,’ he said.
‘South Africa gave England a lesson in batting and hopefully they’ve learned from that today.
‘They went along at three runs an over, perfectly adequately, whereas England were too impatient.
‘They played too many shots too early and struggled against spin which is something I thought we had got past in recent years.’