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England, like India before them, will prove worthy of being only "temporary custodians of the No. 1 ranking" if they fail to make a comeback against South Africa in Leeds on Thursday after a comprehensive defeat at The Oval, writes Lawrence Booth in Daily Mail. He also mentions a loss would reaffirm England's diminishing ability to respond well to early setbacks, as in the recent Test series against Pakistan.
Are England in it for the long haul? Or, like India before them, are they merely temporary custodians of the No 1 ranking while the cricket world awaits its next proper champions?
The fashionable argument over the past few days has been that England respond well to setbacks. It is a comforting thought, and rarely have Headingley 2009, The Oval 2010, and Perth 2010-11 been so eagerly dusted off. The glass-half-empty argument – hey, this is English cricket we're talking about! – is that England responded rather less well to defeat in the first Test against Pakistan in Dubai in January; and not exactly brilliantly to losing the next game in Abu Dhabi either.