England fight to save No.1 cricket ranking
England will seek to bounce back after what spin bowler Graeme Swann described as a “public humiliation” when they face South Africa in the second Test starting on Thursday at Headingley.
England’s ranking as the No.1 Test team is under threat after losing by an innings and 12 runs in the first Test at the Oval last week, with the hosts taking only two wickets while South Africa piled up 637 runs in their only innings.
Swann revealed the England players spent two hours analysing their defeat immediately after the first Test and England coach Andy Flower insisted confidence remains high and that the team could come back strongly.
“We get ourselves into the right frame of mind by doing the things that we have been doing very well for the last couple of years,” said Flower.
“I have every confidence in our players that we can come back and play good cricket.”
England will lose their No.1 ranking if the tourists win the three-match series.
However, they can draw some comfort from recent South African defeats which have followed innings wins.
The Proteas beat India by an innings in the first Test in an away series in 2009/10 and a home series in 2010/11 only to lose the second Test each time, and that dubious feat was repeated at home against Sri Lanka in 2011/12.
They also won the first Test against Australia last summer, albeit not by an innings, only to lose the second clash.
With conditions likely to be more bowler-friendly at the Yorkshire ground than at The Oval, England will seek to exploit the potential weakness of South Africa’s batting from No.6 down.
Specialist batsmen Jacques Rudolph and JP Duminy did not bat at The Oval and failed to strike form in four innings apiece in warm-up games against county teams, while the South African tail does not have the batting credentials of the England lower order.
However, Rudolph, who spent five years playing for Yorkshire, brushed aside any concerns.
“The way we play the game, we are not too results-orientated,” he said. “Going into Thursday, we just have to make sure we stick to the same processes which I thought we did brilliantly in batting and bowling down at The Oval.”
South Africa will almost certainly stay with the same team, while England will make at least one change following the withdrawal for personal reasons of batsman Ravi Bopara.
Uncapped James Taylor was called into the squad and will make his debut unless England decide to go in with an extra bowler.
Flower said, though, that a four-man attack had served England well and he did not see any reason to change the strategy.
If Taylor does play, he will come into the match in good form, having made 163 not out for Nottinghamshire against Sussex in a county match at the weekend.
Tall fast bowler Steven Finn, who was in the squad but did not play at The Oval, could be brought in to provide more penetration in place of Tim Bresnan.© AFP 2013