Boycott particularly cricitcised top-order batsman Kevin Pietersen who scored 42 and 16. -Photo by Reuters

Geoffrey Boycott has criticised England's batsmen after their first-Test defeat to South Africa, saying they forgot about defence in the pursuit of their ambition to score runs.

To save the match, England needed to bat out the final day at The Oval on Monday to force a draw. However the visitors' bowling attack led by Dale Steyn (5-56) steamrolled them to win by an innings and 12 runs.

“When defence is paramount and not giving your wicket away crucial, then surely top players have to rein in their stroke-playing,” the former opening batsman turned commentator wrote in his column for The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday.

“If they can't, or won't, then they are playing for themselves and not the team.

“Batting in these situations you have to look forward to the challenge: to enjoy the chance to bat all day, relish it like eating a good dinner or savouring a gorgeous glass of wine.”

Boycott, who scored 22 centuries in 193 Test-match innings, particularly cricitcised top-order batsman Kevin Pietersen, who got 42 runs in the first innings and 16 runs in the second.

“Kevin Pietersen got sucked into a bouncer contest with Morne Morkel,” he wrote.

“His hubris got the better of him. He was too busy trying to score runs and get on top of the bowler and he forgot about his defence and missed a straight one.”

Ian Bell and Matt Prior were the only two to provide some resistance to the Proteas' bowlers during the second innings, with Bell taking four hours to reach his half-century and eventually bowing out on 55 from 220 balls.

The right-hander said things would be set straight at the Headingley Test starting on Aug. 2.

“We came out and gave it everything we had but South Africa were better than us in this test match,” Bell told Sky Sports.

“We know we can make improvements and put things right at Headingley.”

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