South Africa captain AB de Villiers lit a fire under the fourth Test in Centurion, suggesting there is a pace problem among England’s seamers and fragility in their batting.
The Proteas are 2-0 down in the series with one to play and haven’t won in nine matches.
But De Villiers’ comments ensured there would be no “dead rubber” feeling about this contest.
England skipper Alastair Cook responded by saying: “It’s a brave man to call Jimmy Anderson out but it spices it up a little bit, doesn’t it?”
De Villiers did not name anyone but, with Stuart Broad demolishing the Proteas with six for 17 in the second innings at Johannesburg and both Steven Finn and Ben Stokes topping 90mph at times, Anderson appeared the likeliest target.
“There’s no hiding from the fact England seem to know what they are doing, they understand their roles really well, but there’s also no doubt in my mind there are weaknesses there,” said De Villiers.
“We have exposed some of them over the last few weeks but not enough.
“Their bowling is experienced but some of the guys have lost some pace over the years, but they are smart and skilled so there are other angles to cover.
“The batting is not 100 per cent best-in-the-world material, there are areas we can expose if we start well with the ball, build up dots. We can find cracks. They are not unbeatable, there’s no doubt.”
Cook added: “I think he [De Villiers] is obviously trying to wind everything up to make it competitive.
“I’m sure if Jimmy reads that he’ll have a word to say. Some of his speeds have been pretty good in this series and he hasn’t quite had the luck.”
Cook, though, did not take issue with De Villiers’ point about England’s batting.
The captain himself has scored just 103 runs in six innings, with opening partner Alex Hales managing 120 and James Tayor 148.
They have been bailed out by some stellar showings from Stokes, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, and Cook wants to spread the load as the series draws to a close.
He said: “A lot of runs have been scored by Joe, Ben and Jonny. They’ve scored the majority of the runs, which is great for those guys but others haven’t quite contributed, myself included.
“We’ve got the opportunity to do that and I’m really looking forward to this week to see how people respond.”