After his side were thrashed by 10 wickets at Headingley, where the Proteas took a 1-0 lead in the four-match series, England captain Michael Vaughan took the highly unusual step of saying team selection had appeared "confused".
This was widely seen as thinly veiled attack on the way in which Australia-raised but Grimsby-born paceman Darren Pattinson had been handed a shock debut after his Nottinghamshire colleague Ryan Sidebottom had withdrawn because of a back injury.
Hampshire paceman Chris Tremlett had originally been chosen as cover for Sidebottom but England's plans were thrown into further disruption when pace bowler James Anderson, who eventually played, had a late injury scare.
Pattinson had played just 11 first-class matches before his England call and it was hard to see how he would trouble Test batsmen more than Simon Jones, Stephen Harmison and Matthew Hoggard, all overlooked at Leeds.
"I was a bit disappointed with the last Test, with the selections etc," Jones said. "They obviously chose him (Pattinson) because they thought he was the right man for the job but I'm sure a few bowlers around England were a bit disappointed."
At Headingley the four-man selection panel of ex-England off-spinner Geoff Miller, former England internationals Ashley Giles and James Whitaker and England coach Peter Moores altered the team after England had played a record six successive Tests with the same side.
They dropped the popular Paul Collingwood, who made way for Andrew Flintoff, on the morning of the match but might have done less damage to team morale if they'd left him out the day before, given they seemed determined to play five frontline bowlers.
Flintoff, in his first Test after 18 months out injured, was typically economical but against disciplined South Africa batsmen, who rarely flirted with danger outside off-stump, he did not bowl straight enough.
For all his 2005 Ashes heroics, Flintoff has a modest bowling average of over 33 and such was Vaughan's lack of confidence in the rest of his attack that a man who ought to be a shock bowler became a stock bowler in Leeds, sending down 40 overs as the Proteas piled up 522.
Stuart Broad, as he'd done at Lord's, made an attractive fifty down the order. But while the pace bowler is averaging 80 with the bat, he is also averaging 96 with the ball.
Sidebottom's expected return should bolster England's bowling at Edgbaston but that still leaves the Broad question open.
England made nearly 600 in the drawn first Test at Lord's but the fact their inconsistent top five managed just one fifty between them at Headingley is arguably the biggest concern to emerge from their defeat.
Vaughan, England's No 3, has scored just one hundred in his last 21 Test innings. But England's captain has had the happy knack of making runs when his position has been called into question.
England will hope he is back to his best at Edgbaston where defeat would see them lose the series.