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January 11, 2010
With England heading into the final Test against South Africa with a 1-0 lead the selectors are feeling vindicated in their choices for this tour, after the original squad raised some eyebrows.
England brought just the six specialist batsman on the trip - although Michael Carberry was a late addition after Paul Collingwood dislocated his finger at Durban - and the inclusion of all six in the line-up for the three Tests so far, has provoked much debate.
However, the move has paid off handsomely with Ian Bell's performances in Durban and Cape Town being key to England's advantageous position, although it has left Luke Wright, who has yet to prove his Test credentials, a peripheral figure.
"This has been a very, very difficult tour," Geoff Miller, the national selector, told reporters. "We came out here, and people were questioning some of the selections - who we'd left out and who we'd actually picked.
"Was our squad going to be strong enough to play against a team who were the best in the world. The answer is we've just beaten them in a one-day series - and not only that, we're 1-0 up with one to play in the Test series."
Bell's resurgence in form has been one of the highlights of the tour from England's point of view and has repaid the faith shown in him after a poor opening Test in Centurion. His 140 set up a match-winning lead in Durban and without his 213-ball 78 at Newlands the series would now be all square.
"We're looking for continuity, and we hope they return that by performing on the field," Miller said. "Ian had a bit of a tough time. He was left out, and when the opportunity came back we didn't just bring him back straight away; we gave him the opportunity to go and sort his game out, which he did.
"We felt, and he felt, that if he got that chance again he could do it - and he has done it, on two occasions. One was when we were in a very strong position and one when we weren't. That was the question asked of him many times, and I'm thrilled to bits with him that he's been a very integral part of us drawing that game."
However, Miller knows it is dangerous to get carried away and talk of holding onto win the series 1-0 doesn't sit comfortably. Conditions at the Wanderers are unlikely to favour a draw with the pitch expected to aid the quicks. There hasn't been a draw at the ground since 2000 and that Test against New Zealand had three days washed out. Ten years ago, England were inserted on a raging green-top and crashed to 2 for 4 against Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock.
"I'm not particularly looking for a draw in the series. I'm looking for us to actually go out and win this game," Miller said. "We've played two games where we've just hung on by the skin of our teeth; then the other one, we've gone out and played exceedingly well.
"I'm anticipating doing well in this last Test match as well. We've got players who are capable of winning games. We won't be going out to play for a draw in this Test match - we're going out to win it."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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