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Michael Vaughan was candid about his team's failings after England slumped to defeat by 196 runs at Newlands. It was their first defeat in more than a year, and brought to an end a proud unbeaten run of 13 matches. "I'm disappointed," he said. "South Africa thoroughly deserved to win, because in general they have batted better. If we continue to get low scores in our first innings it's going to put us under a hell of a lot of pressure."
After being rolled over for 139 at Durban, England managed 163 this time around, and as Vaughan admitted, there was no way back from there, after South Africa had posted an imposing 441. "We got out of it at Durban by batting fantastically, but we gave ourselves too much to do here. If we keep getting rolled over cheaply we're going to end up losing a lot of games, so it's something we've got to put right in the next week."
England have a seven-day break between now and the fourth Test at Johannesburg, and after an exhausting itinerary of three back-to-back matches, it will be time well spent. "There certainly won't be any naughty-boy nets," Vaughan promised. "Certain individuals will no doubt go on working on aspects of the game, but the bowlers need a break after bowling their hearts out. But once we get to Jo'burg it'll be three days of hard work."
Vaughan's gloom was magnified by his own poor form. He has managed just 84 runs in six Test innings on the tour so far, and admitted that he was disappointed. "I don't feel in too bad a touch," he explained. "I just keep getting to 10 or 20 and getting out. At this level, you have to get in like Kallis and make big scores. It's disappointing, but I'll be working hard. I've been in a position like this before and I'll certainly come back from it."
That went for the rest of his team as well, fsaid Vaughan, as he has the utmost faith in the characters involved. "We've played some great cricket over the last 15 months, and now we've lost one game," he said. "It's not time to jump to huge conclusions. We're disappointed to lose, but we've got two games to go and I fully expect to perform better."
One good bit of news for England was the results of the scan on Andrew Flintoff's side strain. It revealed nothing more serious than a minor tear of the internal oblique muscle on his 12th rib, which in layman's terms means he will be fit to play at Jo'burg after a week of treatment. Vaughan came in for some criticism for overbowling him in South Africa's second innings, but countered that by pointing out that, as the best strike bowler of the tour so far, he was the man to use at the crucial moments.
Steve Harmison, meanwhile, remains short of his best, although Vaughan insisted he was not too concerned. "Harmo's not hit his straps," he admitted, "but there have been periods where he's put South Africa under pressure. He's not got the numbers in the wickets column, but I certainly wouldn't want to be facing him on a regular basis."
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Cricinfo. He will be following England on their tour of South Africa