England captain Ben Stokes said his side “can’t be great every day” following a crushing defeat by a “relentless” South Africa in the first Test at Lord’s.
The Proteas needed fewer than three days’ play to complete an innings and 12-run win, with England bowled out for just 149 before tea on Friday after a meagre 165 in their first innings.
This was England’s first defeat under a new leadership duo of Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum following a run of just one win in 17 Tests that signalled the end of Joe Root’s captaincy.
England had won all four of their previous Tests since Stokes and former New Zealand captain McCullum took up their positions.
The victories were notable for their attacking batting in the fourth innings, including a superb run chase of 378 to beat India at Edgbaston last month.
Stokes insisted England had no intention of retreating into their shell in the second Test against South Africa at Old Trafford starting Thursday, where they will look to level the three-match series.
“We’ve got a certain way we want to play,” he said. “We know we can be an incredibly hard team to play against if we execute that, hard to beat.
“We can’t be great every day. This week was just off for us. But we’re not going to hold on to it for too long and carry any baggage to Manchester,” the all-rounder added.
England’s approach has been dubbed ‘Bazball’ in honour of McCullum’s nickname, although the coach is not a fan of the term.
Stokes was adamant England, repeatedly undone by South Africa fast bowlers Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje at Lord’s, were about more than playing ‘gung-ho’ cricket regardless of the match situation.
“Not only do we speak about wanting to put pressure on to the opposition, but there are going to be times when we need to absorb that pressure,” the skipper said.
“I felt we were absorbing a lot of pressure this week because of how South Africa bowled — especially those spells from Nortje and Rabada on day one.
“When we do have to absorb, we try to do it in a positive way, but the way they bowled… they were just relentless.
“You have to hold your hands up sometimes. When you’re playing international sport, some days they (the opposition) are going to be better than you, which is fine.”