23/07/2012 15:59 BST | Updated 23/07/2012 16:01 BST

England Thrashed By South Africa In First Test At The Oval By An Innings And 12 Runs (PICTURES)

England have been thrashed in the first of their three-Test series against South Africa, who won by an innings and 12 runs at the Oval after bowling the hosts out for 240.

Dale Steyn took five wickets to join the Lord's honour board and although Ian Bell and Matt Prior showed professional resistance, once the Proteas dismissed Prior shortly after lunch their bowlers ripped through England's tail-end.

It again raises question marks over England's capability of defending their status as the world's best Test team after they were beaten by the world number three Test team.

Since they were ranked number one following the 4-0 decimation of India last summer, captain Andrew Strauss' side have lost 3-0 to Pakistan in the Middle East, drawn 1-1 with Sri Lanka and unconvincingly beaten West Indies 2-0.

With just two Tests against South Africa remaining at Headingley and Lord's, pressure is on England to match their visitors, who outplayed them comprehensively at the crease and in the field.

Should Graeme Smith's side avoid defeat in Yorkshire, he will have captained South Africa to three successive undefeated Test tours of England against three different captains, having previously seen off Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan.

Four wickets down already at the start of the day, Ravi Bopara was the first to walk when bowled for 22 by Steyn as his suspect Test form continued.

England V South Africa

Despite the early breakthrough, Bell and Prior hit an 86 partnership to resurrect hope of England staving off defeat to the South Africans, as they survived up until the lunch interval.

Re-emerging for the second spell of the day's play, Bell reached his 50. But with just three overs until the introduction of the new ball, Graeme Smith introduced spinner Imran Tahir, and Prior's reckless attempt at a sweep shot saw him top edge to Jacques Kallis.

Bell's presence and a confident tail-end kept the England crowd in boisterous voice, but seven runs later Kallis caught the Warwickshire man at second slip off Steyn, utilising the new ball from the Vauxhall End to effectively end the contest.

Stuart Broad departed for a duck after a lengthy review, after the ball deflected off his glove to AB de Villiers off Steyn again, before the fast bowler tempted Graeme Swann into a drive, but he could only find Alviro Petersen at cover.

Tahir then got James Anderson lbw for the final wicket to inflict defeat upon the home side, leaving Tim Bresnan, who finally lost a Test match in his career on the 15th occasion, not out.

For South Africa, it was the second of two triumphant days in sport following Ernie Els' success at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.