England take on the South Africans in the third and final Test of the series, at Lords, hoping to stop the Proteans from displacing them atop the world test rankings. The visitors have a 1-0 lead in the series, after having dominated the first test and led their hosts to a draw in the second.
"In the next five days, if we play well enough, we will earn that ranking," BBC quoted South Africa skipper Graeme Smith as saying.
Second Test Round-Up
The second test between England and South Africa started with the hosts electing to field. South Africa did fairly well on the first day, ending a rain-interrupted day on 262/5, with Alviro Petersen unbeaten on 124. The visitors finally finished at 419 on the second day, with Peterson managing 182 and Stuart Broad leading the hosts' wicket-taking charge with 3/96. In reply, England were 48/0 at the close of play and managed to bat through the third day, taking the score to 351/5. Kevin Pietersen was unbeaten through the day with 149.
The fourth day was disastrous, though, with England only adding 74 runs for their final five wickets. Pietersen was unable to add to his overnight score and Matt Prior's 68 was an absolute godsend. South Africa were 39/0 at close of play.
With the game heading towards a certain draw, South Africa declared their second innings on 258/9. Jacques Rudolph top scored with 68 and captain Smith contributed 52. England survived a few nervy minutes to see out the Test, finishing at 130/4.
Third Test Preview
The biggest blow to England will be the absence, through disciplinary action, of their centurion from the last Test. Pietersen was the only reason the hosts were able to save the Headingley Test and captain Andrew Strauss will not be happy about the loss.
Pietersen has been axed after he was found guilty of sending "provocative texts" to some South African players. It appears the 32 year old sent texts criticising his captain, Strauss, to pacer Dale Steyn and batsman AB De Villiers, according to the Daily Mail. Jonny Bairstow has been named as Pietersen's replacement.
The controversies aside, the fact remains Pietersen has been in good form and has a career average of 49.48 in Test matches. Bairstow, on the other hand, has played only three Tests, has an average of 12.66 and is certainly being thrown into the deep end. Steyn will relish the chance to test the youngster's batting credentials. The Pietersen issue is the only cloud hanging over England as they go into this game with an otherwise unchanged side.
Meanwhile, the Proteas, who looked strong in the first two Tests, have an unchanged side for this final fixture. South Africa coach Gary Kirsten said becoming the number one team in all forms of the game was very important for him and his team.
"Way back in August last year we put a peg in the ground and said we wanted to become the best cricket team in the world in all forms of the game. Some people say we are not sure about the rankings, does it hold any water? But deep down every team aspires to it. They like to know they are number one in those rankings. We certainly take it with importance," the Telegraph quoted Kirsten as saying.
England: (from) Andrew Strauss (captain), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Steven Finn, Graham Onions, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, James Taylor, Jonathan Trott
South Africa: (from) Graeme Smith (captain), Andre De Villiers, Hashim Amla, Jean-Paul Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Jacques Kallis, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Alviro Petersen, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Jacques Rudolph, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Thami Tsolekile
Umpires: Simon Taufel (AUS) and Kumar Dharmasena (SRI)
TV Umpire: Rod Tucker (AUS)
Match Referee: Jeff Crowe (NZL)
Where to Watch Live:
You can follow the game live from 10.30 am BST to 7 pm BST on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports HD 1. Special commentary will be available on BBC 5 live sports extra, BBC Radio 4 LW and via the BBC Sport Web site.