LONDON, Aug 20 (Reuters) - England captain Andrew Strauss
acknowledged on Monday that his team had not responded well to
the challenge of defending their world number one test ranking.
By contrast his South Africa counterpart Graeme Smith, whose
side displaced England when they won their three-test series 2-0
at Lord's, said he believed the Proteas had what it took to stay
South Africa jumped ahead of England in the rankings after
their 51-run victory in the final test on Monday. The win ended
England's impressive streak of seven consecutive test series
wins at home and extended the Proteas' run of six years without
defeat in test series overseas.
England were number one for a year after leapfrogging India
last year. But since then they have lost six tests, including
three in a row to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, won
three and drawn two.
"It has been the case that we've lost a lot more than we
would have wanted to," Strauss said.
"Whether that's because of a change of mindset, from being
the hunters to the ones that are hunted, I don't know.
"Or is it just that we came unstuck in the subcontinent and
lost a bit of confidence along the way? I don't know the exact
answers right now. But those are the sort of questions we need
to find answers to.
"Obviously, the mindset switches straightaway again - to us
being the 'hunters' - and maybe that suits us a bit better at
the moment. That should give us the impetus and catalyst to go
on and play some better cricket over the coming months."
England's next challenge in the test arena is a four-match
series in India in November before home-and-away series against
both New Zealand and their oldest enemy Australia.
Smith appeared unconcerned by the sudden pressure of
becoming number one, a position South Africa have already held
"Being number one is something we have pushed for, for a
while," Smith said. "Over the next few days we can enjoy that.
But our long term challenge is the same as it was for England,
in that when the wind blows, to make sure it doesn't blow us
"Having touched it before, I think we have learned some
lessons. I can't predict what will happen but we are pretty
humble. I don't think there will be any flashiness from our
"There will be lots of hard work and with the type of people
we have around our group, if we do lose this it won't be because
of our attitudes."
Strauss said England's greatest weaknesses throughout the
series were catching, with eight catches going down in three
tests, and a lack of runs from his top order. Strauss, himself,
made a highest score of 37 in six innings and averaged only 17.
Wicketkeeper and England's man-of-the-series Matt Prior
topped the run charts for his team with 275 at an average of 45,
batting at number seven.
"The obvious thing to focus on is that our batting was
below-par, comparatively to theirs, against a good bowling
attack and we dropped catches," Strauss said.
"In a three-test series in particular, dropping those sorts
of catches against a good batting lineup can be the difference
between winning and losing games."
Meanwhile, Strauss said he had made no definite plans to
meet controversial batsman Kevin Pietersen, who was dropped for
the Lord's test after falling out with the team and the England
But he did say the Pietersen saga could not be blamed for
the Lord's defeat.
(Editing by John Mehaffey)