England need at least a draw to keep their hopes of avoiding series defeat alive, with the final Test against South Africa starting at Lord's on 16 August.
Graeme Swann admitted England had been humiliated in the opening Test, which they lost by an innings and 12 runs having taken just two wickets in 189 overs.
He also conceded that the hosts' form since taking the number one Test crown against India last summer had been 'dismal.' England have lost five of their nine Test matches since then.
England in Tests since Sept 2011
Pakistan, Dubai, Lost by 10 wickets
Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, Lost by 72 runs
Pakistan, Dubai, Lost by 71 runs
Sri Lanka, Galle, Lost by 75 runs
Sri Lanka, Colombo, Won by 8 wickets
West Indies, Lord's, Won by 5 wickets
West Indies, Trent Bridge, Won by 9 wickets
West Indies, Edgbaston, Match drawn
South Africa, The Oval, Lost by an innings and 12 runs
Five Talking points:
Until the defeat in Abu Dhabi last winter, England had not lost back-to-back Tests under the leadership of Andrew Strauss, and had responded to two innings defeats against Australia with massive victories.
Their response after losing to Sri Lanka last winter was similarly excellent, Kevin Pietersen inspiring a stunning win with one of his best innings' for his country in the oppressive heat of Galle. But South Africa are a different kettle of fish to any of the sides England have faced in the past few years, and seem hell-bent on attaining number one status.
Ravi Bopara's absence due to personal issues means England could give a debut to the diminutive Notts batsman who has been widely tipped since a teen at Leicestershire. Taylor has had a mixed summer, with a century as captain against the West Indies for England Lions the highlight.
With Bopara unavailable and Eoin Morgan and Jonny Bairstow down the pecking order, Taylor has a great opportunity to be the first man to really stamp his authority on the sixth batting spot since Paul Collingwood's retirement.
That's if he plays. Recent history puts the odds on England tampering with their attack very unlikely, and it would be a shock if Steven Finn or Graeme Onions joined in to make a five-man attack.
Having said that, England's last two series opening defeats - against Pakistan and Sri Lanka this winter - resulted in a shake up of the attack. Monty Panesar replaced Chris Tremlett to make it a two seam, two spin attack in Abu Dhabi and Panesar was replaced by a fourth seamer - Tim Bresnan - in Colombo.
Whatever happens, there is bound to be clamour for Steven Finn to return to the side, bringing with him an irresistible combination of pace and height.
One of the most worrying signs at the Oval was Graeme Swann's lack of apparent form. The quality of Hashim Amla against spin combined with the flatness of the deck counted against England's premier slow bowler.
But his elbow injury issues have been well documented and he has spoken of his worries he will need another operation on his bowling arm. The spin department is one where England would have expected to outbowl South Africa and Swann's lack of form in the opener will worry the hierarchy.
Arguably cricket's biggest enigma when it comes to Test pitches, England's record in Leeds is indifferent in recent years. Their last two matches at the ground have ended in convincing defeat against South Africa and Australia, and their fixture there in 2003 against South Africa also ended in a loss.
The quality of the deck for batting is notoriously dependent on whether or not the sun is out, and an overwhelmingly overcast or sunny first morning could make the toss vitally important to the destination of the number one spot.