South Africa in England 2012 August 13, 2012

South Africa reveal No. 1 goal

Gary Kirsten believes his side have made great improvements and are keen to be acknowledged as the best
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The admission has finally come. South Africa truly, madly, deeply want to become the world's best Test team.

Everybody suspected as much, given their constant hovering at No. 2 or No. 3 and always being one series win away from better. But no-one could confirm it because South Africa, like every other team that were not No. 1, maintained a stoic stance that rankings did not actually matter.

Maybe they don't. After all, the team ranked top, England, have lost five of the ten matches they have played this year. Their opponents, South Africa, have not lost once in the same period, winning three and drawing three matches, but have not played the same number of matches and are third on the list. The second-best team, Australia, have won more than anyone else in 2012, with five victories and a draw.

The international calendar, timings of individual series and the quality of cricket contribute to debates that the rankings may not present a full picture, except of course, if you are on top of them. Then, you can see what lies below. After years of looking up and around and pretending to be content with that, South Africa have decided that they too want the bird's eye view and know they are closer than ever to getting it.

Perhaps that is the only reason their coach, Gary Kirsten, was willing to talk about how much value teams really place in being ranked the best. "Some people say 'We are not sure about the rankings, do they hold any water?' But deep down every team aspires to and would like to know that they are the No. 1 team in the world," Kirsten admitted.

"We certainly take it importantly as well, as you would in any team. If you are setting goals, you want to be the best and if that's the yardstick that determines you are the best then you take it seriously."

Sticking to the task at hand has been trickier than usual in England. Gaps between Test matches have meant rhythm is constantly broken and although the Kevin Pietersen sideshow has not directly affected the South African squad, it has also been impossible to ignore.

Kirsten and his management team have had to fill the gaps with out-of-the-box activities, like fancy dress parties and dinner with a reality television star. He is confident South Africa have "given ourselves the best chance of success in every game," not only because of the emphasis on alternative style preparation but because of the unit they have been moulded into. "When we execute in the right way, we are a difficult team to beat," Kirsten said.

That may be true for many South Africa teams over the years but holds a different truth for this one. The rest have visited the brink of greatness often but actual greatness was just a door they knocked on and a room they were never let in to. Kirsten seems to believe the current crop hold the key, one he may have given them, although he would never say so.

South Africa now seem to be the complete package. In cricketing terms, their formula of six batsmen, which since Mark Boucher's retirement has increased to seven, complements the three-pronged pack attack perfectly. Add the legspinner and the all-round abilities of Jacques Kallis' and they have an extra edge. It only became enough recently, with a missing ingredient that cannot be quantified exactly, save to say that sprinkling of creativity and excellent identification of resources seems to have been it.

What makes Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel different to pairings of the past - Allan Donald and Fanie de Villiers or Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini - is that they are not just a pairing. They have Vernon Philander. Donald and de Villiers perhaps had too few years together and Pollock and Ntini could have done with a touch more pace at the end but imagine if someone like Andre Nel was as consistent a performer as Philander.

They also have Imran Tahir, who has not had sensational individual success yet but whose presence alone has made an impact. Gone are the days that South Africa's spinner was called on only to bowl the over before tea, to hold up an end or to chew away at time until a second new ball was available. Now, the spinner is someone who can attack on his own, break open a stubborn partnership or eat his way into the tail. He has done so in small instances so far and the confidence the team has in him to do it in bigger ways is evident.

What makes Kallis part of a more imposing batting line-up than he was before is not just that he has the strength of Graeme Smith above him, the style of Hashim Amla next to him and the daring of AB de Villiers below. It is that he has the determination of Alviro Petersen and the promise of Jacques Rudolph and JP Duminy too. Rudolph and Duminy could end up jostling for the same place, if a specialist wicket-keeper is brought in, but for as long as they operate together, they stand as an illustration of the depth of the line-up.

What makes South Africa a better side than they were at readmission, five years after that or even five years ago is that Graeme Smith is cricket's most experienced Test captain. He has led for almost a decade and has just about done it all. That makes him more willing to play what Kirsten called a "brand of attacking cricket which we think is the key to our success". Smith has no reason to fear failure because he has already faced it.

Under him, South Africa's have learnt to adapt to all conditions, which Kirsten thinks is essential to being the best in the world. "Whatever is out there, we've got to deal with," he said. That includes if nothing is out there and South Africa have recently found ways to make something out of very little. Evidence enough was that on an Oval pitch where England could only take two wickets, South Africa managed 20.

"There has been a great improvement in this team in that we can make things happen out there," Kirsten said. "If we are not having a great session, we can turn it around. The team takes a lot of pride in that; it's one of our strengths." It's that sort of strength that turns teams from good to great and South Africa have admitted great is what they are after.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • suniljoseph on August 15, 2012, 15:39 GMT

    Oh God, have you people forgotten that SA are chokers. They are definitely going to loose this match. Come on England. When Andrew Flintoff went everybody was saying, this is the end of England. But England became No.1 in his absence. And now I can forecast a Jhony Bairstow show in the last test match.

  • dicky_boy on August 15, 2012, 13:13 GMT

    @ SHAN 007 OR 56 WE LOST ONLY ONE SERIES TO DOMINANT AUSTRALIAN SEREIS AT HOME AND BEAT THEM 3 OR 4 TIMES WHEN THEY WERE DOMINANT AND WHITEWASHED THEM LAST TWO TIMES, LETS SEE YOU ARE EVEN LOSING TESTS AT HOME HAHA, NO ONE MY FOOT

  • dicky_boy on August 15, 2012, 13:08 GMT

    @dude satishchander cool down man, don't pay attention to angry frustrated fans like shan56 or shan007 , fact we won in eng in 2007 while they have not won in india since 28 years, we have 2 world cups one in england by the way, and lets see that have right noonne ,so relax man, i think for the next 1000 years , they have only one comment, u lost 8 tests, we should say u lost 800 lol in india

  • RandyOZ on August 15, 2012, 12:48 GMT

    South Africa already are the #1. The United XI got there on the back fo Australia rebuilding. They'll be down in the doldrums where they belong soon.

  • satish619chandar on August 15, 2012, 6:10 GMT

    @Shan156 : Couldn't even beat India at home? Show some respect man.. How about England who lost test series to India in the series before the whitewash..

  • Chris_P on August 15, 2012, 0:15 GMT

    @@andrew-schulz. You answered your own question. Australia were defending a 3-0 series so anything less than that result (due to the closeness of the team's rankings points) would have seen SA pass Australia.) This actually happened, they came to Aust. with a defensive mindset & got flogged for it, they were a far better team than they showed. My point is, even back then, they had strong ambitions for #1, not just now. Rankings are a good indication of form over a period of 3 years, and after 10 or so years, it is still the best option we got. Both England & India achieved #1 due to its form, they certainly were not undisputed & clearcut, but they deserved their position at the time. And when the changeover happens , it is usually due to the #1 team's dip in that form.

  • Shan156 on August 14, 2012, 21:34 GMT

    @andrew-schulz, ok I forgot that the SA-Aus series was last year. It was still played in November and SA don't play that many tests as do Australia and England. Big deal. You still lost to Aus within the last 1 year, didn't you? Or, are you going to claim that it doesn't matter? SA deserve their #1 spot if they win/draw at Lord's but they are not remotely as good as the great Windies/Aussie sides. They couldn't even beat India at home. That is a shame.

  • Hira1 on August 14, 2012, 17:33 GMT

    Smith man go and crush England by a margin that may lead to flower and straus downfall.....hopefully straus may also get a golden duck in his 100th test match

  • Tmaa on August 14, 2012, 16:05 GMT

    SA the most deserving side to be NO-1,always very gud competitive side,luv to see them toppers as a cricket fan,IPL & other like these t20 impresario leagues just ruining quality cricket.

  • Shan156 on August 14, 2012, 16:00 GMT

    @Rohan_K, if SA are 10 times better than England on any pitch (which is rubbish because they didn't even win at Headingley - if they were really 10 times better, then they should have thumped us like at the Oval but they didn't even win), then they must be a million times better than India who with their 8 continuous away test defeats are looking like a big joke.

  • suniljoseph on August 15, 2012, 15:39 GMT

    Oh God, have you people forgotten that SA are chokers. They are definitely going to loose this match. Come on England. When Andrew Flintoff went everybody was saying, this is the end of England. But England became No.1 in his absence. And now I can forecast a Jhony Bairstow show in the last test match.

  • dicky_boy on August 15, 2012, 13:13 GMT

    @ SHAN 007 OR 56 WE LOST ONLY ONE SERIES TO DOMINANT AUSTRALIAN SEREIS AT HOME AND BEAT THEM 3 OR 4 TIMES WHEN THEY WERE DOMINANT AND WHITEWASHED THEM LAST TWO TIMES, LETS SEE YOU ARE EVEN LOSING TESTS AT HOME HAHA, NO ONE MY FOOT

  • dicky_boy on August 15, 2012, 13:08 GMT

    @dude satishchander cool down man, don't pay attention to angry frustrated fans like shan56 or shan007 , fact we won in eng in 2007 while they have not won in india since 28 years, we have 2 world cups one in england by the way, and lets see that have right noonne ,so relax man, i think for the next 1000 years , they have only one comment, u lost 8 tests, we should say u lost 800 lol in india

  • RandyOZ on August 15, 2012, 12:48 GMT

    South Africa already are the #1. The United XI got there on the back fo Australia rebuilding. They'll be down in the doldrums where they belong soon.

  • satish619chandar on August 15, 2012, 6:10 GMT

    @Shan156 : Couldn't even beat India at home? Show some respect man.. How about England who lost test series to India in the series before the whitewash..

  • Chris_P on August 15, 2012, 0:15 GMT

    @@andrew-schulz. You answered your own question. Australia were defending a 3-0 series so anything less than that result (due to the closeness of the team's rankings points) would have seen SA pass Australia.) This actually happened, they came to Aust. with a defensive mindset & got flogged for it, they were a far better team than they showed. My point is, even back then, they had strong ambitions for #1, not just now. Rankings are a good indication of form over a period of 3 years, and after 10 or so years, it is still the best option we got. Both England & India achieved #1 due to its form, they certainly were not undisputed & clearcut, but they deserved their position at the time. And when the changeover happens , it is usually due to the #1 team's dip in that form.

  • Shan156 on August 14, 2012, 21:34 GMT

    @andrew-schulz, ok I forgot that the SA-Aus series was last year. It was still played in November and SA don't play that many tests as do Australia and England. Big deal. You still lost to Aus within the last 1 year, didn't you? Or, are you going to claim that it doesn't matter? SA deserve their #1 spot if they win/draw at Lord's but they are not remotely as good as the great Windies/Aussie sides. They couldn't even beat India at home. That is a shame.

  • Hira1 on August 14, 2012, 17:33 GMT

    Smith man go and crush England by a margin that may lead to flower and straus downfall.....hopefully straus may also get a golden duck in his 100th test match

  • Tmaa on August 14, 2012, 16:05 GMT

    SA the most deserving side to be NO-1,always very gud competitive side,luv to see them toppers as a cricket fan,IPL & other like these t20 impresario leagues just ruining quality cricket.

  • Shan156 on August 14, 2012, 16:00 GMT

    @Rohan_K, if SA are 10 times better than England on any pitch (which is rubbish because they didn't even win at Headingley - if they were really 10 times better, then they should have thumped us like at the Oval but they didn't even win), then they must be a million times better than India who with their 8 continuous away test defeats are looking like a big joke.

  • Clan_McLachlan on August 14, 2012, 14:31 GMT

    And the non-news of the year goes to...

  • on August 14, 2012, 14:15 GMT

    How is this even news? Surely every team aims to - eventually - be #1? Then again, how is the Pietersen affair news either? Clearly not enough cricket on at the moment...

  • Redxabi on August 14, 2012, 13:56 GMT

    Proteas need to put this series to bed and then cap young wicketkeeper U19 Quinton de Kock ASAP before the Poms come knocking.

  • on August 14, 2012, 13:08 GMT

    I hope the Proteas win the Series because this team can beat any team on any conditions. If they play at their best no team can beat them.

  • on August 14, 2012, 13:06 GMT

    Mr Gary Kristen is the best ever coach in cricket in my humble opinion. I am a big fan of him.

  • on August 14, 2012, 12:42 GMT

    I seriously don't think any of the current test teams are going to maintain their number one rankings even if they achieve it. Face it, the Proteas lost a test match to the likes of Sri Lanka in their home. If you don't consistently win at home you can't really expect the number one rankings to magically stay. The English will stay number one as long as they play in England alone and will lose their rankings if they come anywhere near the subcontinent. India with its ageing team and youngsters not yet used to test cricket outside their subcontinent would find difficult to win matches outside the subcontinent. With Pakistan, its a miracle that they're still managing to put up a decent test team after all the controversies. Srilanka, is similar to England with their home performances, only difference is that they're yet to win a single test in India or Australia.

  • Cricket_vs_Football on August 14, 2012, 12:34 GMT

    Why not?? SA deserves to be No. 1 ( Just they are unlucky alwayz)

  • satish619chandar on August 14, 2012, 12:24 GMT

    Well.. Last time, SA were in same situation against India.. Winning the first test and required a draw to become No.1 in Kolkata test where even pitch was not that much assisting spinners.. But SA lost and it took all the time in the world for them to again reach this stage.. Opportunity will not knock forever.. It is upto them to grab it or wait for some more time for the chance to arrive..

  • PrasPunter on August 14, 2012, 12:02 GMT

    Dont believe in rankings - Without winning series in Aus, SA and SL, india was ranked No1. Eng remained No 1 by virtue to its wins at home. Just depends on how you play teams at home and away. Going by this yardstick, SA can truely be called as the leading test Team in the world as of now, , even if they don't win at Lords. Having said this, Aus and WI teams of the past were the deserving No1 - won series both at home and away against all Test-playing nations of their times.

  • Supa_SAFFA on August 14, 2012, 11:16 GMT

    It's said that Smith has brought about the demise of 2 Eng captains and now their star batsman. I suspect the 3rd test will be the end of Eng's selection committee.

  • andrew-schulz on August 14, 2012, 10:30 GMT

    Brilliantly done, Shan156. You could also have mentioned that SA have also lost a Test to SL since. Except you missed the two little words: 'This year.' Chris P absolutely incorrect. How could a side move up to number one by losing a series 2-0? The rankings were based on series results back then and a 2-0 would have had no different impact to a 3-0 loss. But a big point of this article is whether the rankings are relevant or not. The answer is emphatically not. These rankings have produced some ridiculous results, and have the potential to do even worse. In 2010 Muralitharan retired in the middle of a series which would have moved Sri Lanka to #1 if they had kept their 1-0 lead. Shows how relevant he thought these rankings were. It also shows their stupidity in that SL would have moved to #1 without an away series win against any except Bangladesh. The crowning of India and England as #1 has been only slightly less stupid. Good for marketing in those countries though.

  • StaalBurgher on August 14, 2012, 9:58 GMT

    I don't see how this is an new acknowledgement of any kind. Obviously the Test rankings are not 100% accurate. You can be no.1 without being the best but you can't really be acknowledged as the best without being no.1 either. All teams try to get no.1 but they don't know that they shouldn't hate on themselves too much if they aren't. Hardly news and they are certainly not putting pressure on themselves that they haven't already.

  • risimati_l on August 14, 2012, 9:56 GMT

    the whole rainbow nation is behind the PROTEAS win or lose will always support you, even if they call you the C word your still our team and will keep on supporting till the end of time Proudly South African. once again Graeme Smith's team has accounted for another English players demise in the form of KP, now its Andrew Strauss turn to call it a day after the SA tour to join his predecessors Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan #PUREPROTEA

  • QingdaoXI on August 14, 2012, 9:42 GMT

    I am big Fan of South African cricket since my child hood days, and i always back them(not only against India) but the exp of follwing the proteas cricket gives the feeling either they will choke in next test or soon in Australia they will lose there no 1. Ranking, if they get there. Some peoples say India for 18 months and England for 12 months got the no 1. ranking but they dont desreved it, but who desreved then at that particular time this team were good but doesnt played well after getting Numero Uno, becuase they both were not unbeatable but they were playing some good cricket at that time. During this period south africa has not loose any series, but they dont beat there opponents with wide margin too. So whoever becomes number one that team will not hold it for long time, only the team which plays good cricket compare to other competive teams wil have the Ranking One. India, England and South Africa will be rotating the position but for Australia they will go down Like WI.

  • chapathishot on August 14, 2012, 9:27 GMT

    @jmcilhinney: Your point is correct but it should apply to every one when India held the ranking for 2 year it was always referred as luck or major problem in the ranking system .All time greats of the game are struggling to hold it for one year.Mr.Vaseline and other pundits had to eat their words for jumping the gun.LOL

  • on August 14, 2012, 9:27 GMT

    @cricketfannik : I respect your comment,but there are lot of mistakes..

    1."Srilanka never won test series overseas...." - WRONG - Sri Lanka won a test series in NZ in 1995,in England(1998).

    2."...and SA has always been consistent never seen them so low like losing to Srilanka.." - WRONG - In 2006 they heavily lost to Sri Lanka.

  • indiarox4ever on August 14, 2012, 9:16 GMT

    Everyone---please hold your horses SA could be one defeat away from being labelled " perennial chokers". I hope not though, but cricket is a great leveller.

  • Hammond on August 14, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    Good luck with that. South Africa will always be number one at choking in my book.

  • land_slide on August 14, 2012, 8:58 GMT

    the proteas couldn't have chosen a better moment to fuel the 'choker' theory. way to motivate (read pressurize) yourselves guys. I suppose they just wanted the focus to shift away from KP; be it for a fleeting moment. however, as a cricket fan, hope we get a good match

  • MostCulturedAussieSirLesPatterson on August 14, 2012, 8:55 GMT

    @SCC08: Have a chat with Gary Kirsten and ask him if "he made the team" - I think you'll find that Dhoni together with Dravid and Ganguly before him were responsible for suppressing egos. Kirsten's genius lies in his man management and motivational skills.

  • PrasPunter on August 14, 2012, 8:22 GMT

    @yoogi, it wouldnt have mattered on who the coach of the indian team was for WC 2011 - india would have obviously "won" it. They were desperate to buy that - didnt they ?

  • jmcilhinney on August 14, 2012, 7:52 GMT

    @Fast_Track_Bully on (August 14 2012, 04:57 AM GMT), that's one of the dumbest things I've read here. The fact that England lost 4 Tests is a row and were still able to hold on to the #1 ranking is a testament to the lead they had built up over other teams, not luck. You do know that the rankings are based on actual results, right? If you don't have the results then you don't get the ranking. If another team had had better results than England then they would have taken the #1 ranking away. You could perhaps say that England were lucky that SA were rained out in NZ but, although likely, victories were not guaranteed there and England have had their fair share of games rained out too, e.g. the third Test against WI. The fact that you are bigoted against a team doesn't make their successes lucky.

  • on August 14, 2012, 7:32 GMT

    Sick of this talk of number one ALL the time. It takes away the focus of whats important and that's ensuring you play to your strengths and putting your team in a winning position more often than not. What follows will follow. I never heard the great Australian team of the 90s/2000s being so preoccupied with the rankings. They just played ruthless cricket and the number one position was a product of it.

  • Rohan_K on August 14, 2012, 7:18 GMT

    Salute and bow down to Sir Gary Kirsten..Great insight. I am sure you dont need to prove SA as No.1, they are 10 times better than Eng on any pitch. Cannot forget the good work you did for us(India). Congratulations in advance for a 2-0 series win at Lords.

  • BellCurve on August 14, 2012, 7:14 GMT

    @land47 - Yes, well, hmmm. Consider this: Anderson 4 @ 54.25; Finn 2 @ 86.50; Bresnan 2 @ 139 and Swanny 0 @ 151 and counting. The only English bowler with respectable figures is Pietersen with 4 @ 22.75. But he is of course actually South African and for that reason he has been dropped. England is virtually chanceless without him. It is incredibly amusing to watch you lot self-destruct.

  • on August 14, 2012, 6:57 GMT

    OOOOO Really? Are they not playing test cricket to win World T20?

  • veerakannadiga on August 14, 2012, 6:24 GMT

    With the magician "Gary Kirsten" at the helm of affairs,SA will surpass England as #1.Looking forward to some Steyn missiles.

  • CSKftw on August 14, 2012, 6:19 GMT

    Thank you Captain Obvious. What's there to admit for a team that's ranked number 2 anyways, of course they want to be no.1, duh. Until the ICC Test Championship comes along, the no.1 rank is the only motivation for any of the test playing teams to continue playing Test Cricket. While I hope SA manage to win/draw the Lord's Test just so England wouldn't be no.1 anymore I have a gut feeling that SA are going to choke and lose the match, hope I'm wrong.

  • Newlandsfaithful on August 14, 2012, 5:55 GMT

    Kind of odd, but I think SA plays way less international cricket than any of the other ICC top teams.

  • rahulcricket007 on August 14, 2012, 5:54 GMT

    IF SA LOSE THE FINAL TEST THEN ALL THE CRICKET EXPERTS ALL OVER THE WORLD WILL CALL SA AS GREATEST CHOKERS .

  • guppys_classmate on August 14, 2012, 5:40 GMT

    South Africa had always been a good team.. I don't remember anytime when they were woefully out of form or been whitewashed in a series. But if there is one thing that had been eluding them, it's the World Cup... If SA truly need to get into the History books, they need to get the World Cup. They need to get the monkey off their backs

  • Fast_Track_Bully on August 14, 2012, 4:57 GMT

    They deserves it rather than the lucky England. Eng lost to Pakistan and struggled to defeat SL and still holding no:1 position! That's pure luck, nothing else!

  • yoogi on August 14, 2012, 4:37 GMT

    The man of the moment is Kristen, if SA manages to touch no 1 spot. Certainly india without Kristen is exactly 2011-eng tour. Just before world cup, India did pretty well in SA, under kristen. In world cup you know what happened. He signed off at high. Every team member acknowledged his contribution except kristen himself. Hopefully kristen will manage to lift SA. I never shown any intrest in Kristen the batsman, but as a coach he is stand-out. - an ordent indian fan.

  • on August 14, 2012, 4:25 GMT

    @ cricketfannik :

    Those who become number 1 only deserve to be number1.

    All the trash of someone being deserving of anything without getting is bit hollow.

    If you get it ..you deserve it.. And not the other way round.

  • landl47 on August 14, 2012, 3:33 GMT

    Of course every team aspires to be #1. South Africa are a very good side, though I think the glasses are a little rose-colored to suggest that Philander (5 wickets at 40 each in the series so far) and Tahir, who only seems to get tail-enders out, are major contributors and that Rudolph and Duminy are 'promising'. If they win or draw the next test then they will be #1; let's see how long they can hold on to the ranking. @kensohatter: you don't think Steyn, Amla or De Villiers are going to go down as great? I'd say England has a lot of very good players, none of them great, but SA has stars. Kallis has already cemented his place in the top rank and I expect the other three will also be right up there.

  • Lermy on August 14, 2012, 3:13 GMT

    As long as there is a British empire, England will always be number one, and if that isn't the truth may the hand of God strike me down *** B A N G ! *** what are you all gawping at? Never seen the hand of God before?

  • ashish514 on August 14, 2012, 3:07 GMT

    @SCC08- What Kirsten did was he didn't suppress the egos, he took them in right direction. But to say that the dressing room was never like that before would b wrong. It was like that since Ganguly-Wright's time. Only disturbance in between was when chappell arrived, he tried to suppress the egos and not channel them in the right direction, which is one of the major roles of a team manager. Had it not been for good managers, eccentrics like mario balotelli would have never been able to play.

  • jmcilhinney on August 14, 2012, 3:00 GMT

    That has got to be the least shocking revelation in the history of revelations.

  • tinkertinker on August 14, 2012, 2:56 GMT

    In the near 4 years since south africa won in aus they have only beat sri lanka west indeis and the kiwis, no victories vs top 4 ranked sides yet people talk about them like they are dominating unit.

    Even the struggling aussies have multiple wins vs top4 ranked sides in that timeframe.

  • EverybodylovesSachin on August 14, 2012, 2:17 GMT

    Hope they do not choke this time..else they will be the GREATEST CHOKER of all time...England your brief time at no 1 mainly due to playing in home conditions soon to be over..You will be third to fourth position after India tour....

  • MattyP1979 on August 14, 2012, 1:56 GMT

    If SA draw or win at lords they deserve to be no.1. That does not mean ENg didn't. Its not over till the fat lady starts a singing (though she is warning up). If we stay no.1 some people might have to look a little more inwards. Either way I hope for another fantastic match...cmon Eng.

  • kensohatter on August 14, 2012, 1:40 GMT

    Whats interesting about the current top two test sides is that only 1 player will truly go down down as a great of the game. Kallis. The rest are good players and maybe one day someone like Smith or Cook or god forbid Anderson will join them but i think this all shows a very lean patch in international cricket. Or maybe we have just been spoilt in recent times by greats like Tendualker, Dravid, Ponting, Warne, Mcgrath, etc etc. The only way to get an accurate picture of the ranking position of test nations is to divide the test nations into a top 5 and bottom 5 tier system where thise in tier 1 (eng, sa, ind, aust, sl) play each other and after the year period the team with most ones is ranked no.1 and the 5th placed team is relegated in exchange for the top ranked team in tier 2 (nz, wi, pak, zim, bang). Tier 2 teams would also be resposible with playing affliate games to grow in new countries. This would stop pointless series and give a more accurate no. 1 system

  • Chris_P on August 14, 2012, 1:27 GMT

    I am sorry, Firdose, but as far back as 2002 when they toured Australia, all they had to do is draw ONE test of a 3 test series to claim the #1 spot (due to the intrigue of the rankings) & arrived with a defensive mindset as they wanted to play a draw to claim the position. Of course losing a 3 test series 2-0 to go past that team & stating you're the best is s slight contradiction, but the fact is they have harboured this desire for a long, long time. And to be blunt, I can recall probably 5 or 6 tests (including this upcoming one) where all they had to do was win to claim top position and guess what happened? The "C" word has been bandied about, so how about let's waiting until & see if they can win this test match & claim the position before blowing trumpets please.

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 14, 2012, 1:00 GMT

    @SCC08: Oh and Kirsten only had a WEE bit to do in India's world cup glory. Team India had the support of a billion people and the blessings and prayers to go with it. Even Kirsten admitted he wasn't fully responsible for India's moment of glory. India had class all the way through from our captain MSD to Tendulkar to Sehwag and so on. A coach is just a changing room guest IMO. As Indians we are thankful to Gary for his tenure but to say ONLY he was responsible for the team's turn around is certainly a 'foolish' thing to say. No matter whatever Kirsten said, it still took 11 Indians to play the game out there. So the glory goes to the team and its player, not Kirsten. Cricinfo please publish.

  • cricketfannik on August 14, 2012, 0:48 GMT

    SA deserve Rank one in ODI and Test cricket both. They are far best test team then Ind, Eng and Aus. they are consistent only their wcups are bad but they always win games more than any other team. they should have won atleast 2 worlcups by now 1992 and 1999 anyways they always choke, its like playing well for 4 years then choke in bug world cup and then again back to normal playing well for 4 years. I havent seen even old SA lost series by big margins. Even Kepler wessles hansie pollock and now Smith all were captains. and SA has always been consistent never seen them so low like losing to Srilanka, Pak or eng. atleast they level the series. Ind lost badly in 2011/12 now they coming back and will beat NZ Eng and Aus in home series . Srilanka never won test series overseas or even drew in Aus, Sa, Eng or Ind. SA has won in Eng, Ind, Sril, NZ, Aus, WI Bang,Pak even since 1992 and if u see Aus from 1992 they did too not ind, sril eng or pak.SA deserve now rank 1 and i know they will stay

  • Penny on August 14, 2012, 0:14 GMT

    My 2 cents. In today's global world, we need to shed jingoistic emotions. Let's enjoy all the good performances by all the players. Loved what Kirsten did with India and loving what he is doing with SA! He is a great coach and SA is a great team. Go Kirsten, go SA!

  • SixFourOut on August 13, 2012, 23:35 GMT

    Are there actually still some people who think South Africa are not the best side in the world? If I had a world 11 they'd have at least half the team. Case closed

  • jb633 on August 13, 2012, 23:19 GMT

    SA you desrve the number 1 status. It pains me to say it but you are the only good side in world cricket atm. You are not great but good and certainly best of an average bunch. England were a top side in 2011 but they are not consistent and have be shown to be too up and down to be considered a true number one side. I feel the same may go for SA if they were to tour India and Pak right now as Tahir is no world class spinner. However with Steyn and Philander they have two classy classy bowlers with potential to become the games greats. Well done to SA, England are in a bad place right now and our fans and media have written this series off as a SA win. Well done to Amla in particular what a legend.

  • Shan156 on August 13, 2012, 23:06 GMT

    "South Africa, have not lost once in the same period, winning three and drawing three matches" huh? Didn't they lose a test to Australia at home recently? That said, SA deserve to be ranked #1 if they win or draw at Lord's. Hoping for an England win but know very well that it would require a big, big effort from the England boys.

  • The_bowlers_Holding on August 13, 2012, 22:47 GMT

    SCC08- I like that post it made me chortle.

  • Jim1207 on August 13, 2012, 22:05 GMT

    Oh.. I was thinking that their goal was to become No.2.. lol

  • SCC08 on August 13, 2012, 21:52 GMT

    @Khali_Singh - " opportunistic when India was on the rise or their peek he took on their coaching job and here we have the same happening "

    Are you having a laugh?

    Kirsten is the ONLY reason India won the WC as team, he made the team. Before him their were EGO issues as Indian players are treaated like GODS and Bradmens by their adoring, yet foolish fans.

    He turned that changing room around, supporting him.. Ever happened before?Never in an Indian changing room.

    Don't under estimate the value of a great coach / man manager.

    Protea forever

  • Hellboy82 on August 13, 2012, 21:41 GMT

    @Khali_Singh: Kirsten took up the South African job because he wanted to spend time with his family, not because it was an easy job. South Africa has only one major problemHe did a good job with India. India before Kirsten & India after Kirsten didn't did so well. So how do we call him an opportunist ? If he is offered a much higher pay & a job close to his family, why would he take up a job in Zimbabwe of West Indies. Thats just human nature.

  • on August 13, 2012, 21:26 GMT

    Too early to suddenly South Africa will be a great number one team! They have to still win a major tournament, that's a fact they cannot run away from! Not to forget how valuable Jacques Kallis is to them...once he goes I don't see the team being as a formidable as it is going to be just for another year!

  • on August 13, 2012, 20:59 GMT

    SA truly deserves the no 1 rank if for nothing then being able to win away from home which only the west indies of 80's and australia of 90's managed. given that most of the players are in the 28-29 brackett, they can stay on top for at least another 5 years.

  • StatisticsRocks on August 13, 2012, 20:47 GMT

    I wish Kirsten and SA good luck in the last test match. Kirsten took India to the glory of WC victory and also helped us achieve the #1 ranking in test matches. I have all the confidence as SA are far more better than India was under Kirsten. I have no doubt SA will reach the test ranking pinnacle but I don't think they will stay there for a long time. Just like Ind and now ENg, SA will also struggle to maintain that #1 status. In this day and age it is hard to find one team that will dominate test matches like WI of 80's and Aus of 90's did. So the #1 ranking will be up for grabs. I guess this is good for the game of cricket, especially test cricket.

  • getsetgopk on August 13, 2012, 20:35 GMT

    Something tells me they will choke again, hope I'm wrong because they truly deserve to be No 1.

  • The_bowlers_Holding on August 13, 2012, 20:17 GMT

    If SA do win and get to be classed as No.1 (as I think they will) it will be deserved on the points system in place and there will be no excuses from England fans. If/when that happens watch out because you will inherit all the inane, derogatory, sniding and ill informed comments on any post that even mentions SA, and they won't be coming from England fans. So if you win you're welcome to that.

  • niddib on August 13, 2012, 20:15 GMT

    Indeed SA is a very good team but they are not as relentless as were Aussies and Windies of the past. It was only the first test of this series I saw something that should be consistent if they are to become a great team. It was one session where they eeked out lots of wickets after English batsman were laying a solid foundation to their score. Sessions like these change the flow of the game and put opponents under immense pressure. On the other hand, English team although has very good bowling attack, cannot withstand if opposition batsman take their time to settle down. To me, both SA and England are prone to buckle under pressure, especially on the spinning tracks. Given the current circumstances, I won't be surprised if the #1 spot will continue to change hands for the next decade or so, but atleast it won't be boring.

  • SATID on August 13, 2012, 20:14 GMT

    Proteas are currently best test team which is fairly obvious. To be truly great you need to aspire to WI and AUS records in their respective eras as the benchmark and realistically there is to many Proteas nearing the twilight of their careers to ever consider a 5-10 year domination. Hope they can prove me wrong. If England is your main threat for world supremacy there is really not much to measure yourself on.

  • on August 13, 2012, 20:14 GMT

    Kirsten is probably the most astute coaches around.The old addage of passion wins matches is so true.SA are a formidable team on the day.Its up to the wicket and the weather.Smith has showed his commitment many times in the past and this test will show Biff to be at the zenith of his career.Good cricket is a certainty.

  • on August 13, 2012, 20:12 GMT

    Kudos to the Saffers, excellent team already. But need to work on a few issues though. Can Rudolf and Duminy play Swann well (especially on day 4 and 5)? After Cronje and Rhodes, there was no successful lower middle order batter from SA, who can play spin confidently. Can Morkel really be the beast and fire at the right time (in terms of length)? Can Tahir find his flipper or a straight-on (he does not have to do a Warne with DRS every spinner has a chance to emulate the spin greats of the previous era. I am really disappointed that he is used less). Can Philander increase pace and bounce so that all edges carry to the slip fielders? If all of that is sorted, then Kirsten has done his job perfectly. He has done similar magic with the Indians, so there is definitely hope.

  • Khali_Singh on August 13, 2012, 19:37 GMT

    I know Firdose you are South African and hold your people in high regard like anyone would for there country man except West Indian eg. Micheal Holding for Chanderpaul i hope i am not too controversial that you would not post my comments but Mr. Kirsten just continue the process.South Africa for a long time was#2 in the world he might have done good with India but for SA his record is 1-1 vs Australia, 1-0 vs New Zealand and this current series. Some people may even call Kirsten opportunistic when India was on the rise or their peek he took on their coaching job and here we have the same happening. As much as i enjoy Kirsten the cricketer Kirsten the coach is a different thing. If he coach Bangladesh,Zimbabwe,West Indies or New Zealand & make them #1 then proclaim him. I feel recognition should be when you do something extraordinary. No offense to Mr. Kirsten by the way he carry himself we know he is very humble and i am glad for him that he has that foresight to make great decisions

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 13, 2012, 19:31 GMT

    I hope SA do well at Lords' because they have NOTHING to lose. It's England's to lose and they have everything on the line here - reputation as no.1, dignity, public image etc. So it's England's to lose, and SA's to gain. England must win at Lords' to hold onto their no.1 ranking; SA only need a draw. But if SA play for a draw they could lose the game because England are still a good team. A mouth watering prospect for me as a neutral indeed.

  • M00DZ on August 13, 2012, 19:29 GMT

    Come Thursday, Lets hope the Era of South African Cricket domination moves to the next level and continues to grow - Proudly Protea.

  • MrPontingToYou on August 13, 2012, 19:28 GMT

    neither india, nor england were worthy number one test teams after oz lost the crown. but this sa team on paper truly deserve it, but they must deliver on a consistant basis like oz and the wi team of the 70's and 80's, otherwise they will be just like india and england.

  • Riderstorm on August 13, 2012, 19:27 GMT

    Kirsten seems much more comfortable and in command as the coach of SA. He might be the one who would push SA into the history books by achieving what Aus did in the decade passed us by. All the best Kirsten. GO SA GO... Get that No.1 Ranking you deserve.

  • on August 13, 2012, 19:23 GMT

    It's impressive how many articles can you squeeze out of nothing.

  • dhoni_sachin_fan on August 13, 2012, 19:20 GMT

    Of course they want to be World No. 1. Who doesn't?

  • Spelele on August 13, 2012, 19:19 GMT

    "It's that sort of strength that turns teams from good to great and South Africa have admitted great is what they are after." Should we slow down the hype just a bit Miss Moonda? No doubt SA are a class act, but they have their own weaknesses. For the sake of the team's sanity, I hope that none of the hype constructed over England is developed over this SA side. It can only damage them! Just enjoy this SA side and stop any talks of 'greatness' or insane comparisons to the great Aus/WI sides of the past. No side can AT THIS POINT in our cricketing history justify any of these claims!

  • Spelele on August 13, 2012, 19:19 GMT

    "It's that sort of strength that turns teams from good to great and South Africa have admitted great is what they are after." Should we slow down the hype just a bit Miss Moonda? No doubt SA are a class act, but they have their own weaknesses. For the sake of the team's sanity, I hope that none of the hype constructed over England is developed over this SA side. It can only damage them! Just enjoy this SA side and stop any talks of 'greatness' or insane comparisons to the great Aus/WI sides of the past. No side can AT THIS POINT in our cricketing history justify any of these claims!

  • vakkaraju on August 13, 2012, 19:14 GMT

    Kirsten may become the first coach to accomplish a number 1 ranking for two separate test teams. Good luck.

  • Tjoeps on August 13, 2012, 18:59 GMT

    OK, you have talk the talk, now walk the walk.....

  • on August 13, 2012, 18:55 GMT

    They deserve it more than Eng who win only at their backyard.Great luck for Eng to be No.1 for more than 8 months.End of road for Eng!

  • on August 13, 2012, 18:47 GMT

    I thought Donald-Pollock-Ntini was a good troika... But it was an ageing Donald, then. Gosh, how times have changed!

    Good luck to South Africa... Their rise has been quite similar to that of tennis world# 4, Andy Murray. The seemingly perennial bridesmaid. Four time grand slam runner-up. Even with a handful of victories at the Master's 1000 level, people wondered if he would ever win a biggie. And then Murray recently won his biggest title to date - the Olympics Gold.

    Sign of things to come for the Proteas?

  • on August 13, 2012, 18:06 GMT

    Well if SA can get their mental side stronger they can rule all formats of crickert for the next decade....GO SA.........

  • bumsonseats on August 13, 2012, 18:03 GMT

    well they will never have a better chance. and with the aussies struggling and playing them in 3 tests later on this year. england will get little out of the indian series, i expect. so unless the c word happens or steyn gets injured. the saffers could be tops for the next couple of years.

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  • bumsonseats on August 13, 2012, 18:03 GMT

    well they will never have a better chance. and with the aussies struggling and playing them in 3 tests later on this year. england will get little out of the indian series, i expect. so unless the c word happens or steyn gets injured. the saffers could be tops for the next couple of years.

  • on August 13, 2012, 18:06 GMT

    Well if SA can get their mental side stronger they can rule all formats of crickert for the next decade....GO SA.........

  • on August 13, 2012, 18:47 GMT

    I thought Donald-Pollock-Ntini was a good troika... But it was an ageing Donald, then. Gosh, how times have changed!

    Good luck to South Africa... Their rise has been quite similar to that of tennis world# 4, Andy Murray. The seemingly perennial bridesmaid. Four time grand slam runner-up. Even with a handful of victories at the Master's 1000 level, people wondered if he would ever win a biggie. And then Murray recently won his biggest title to date - the Olympics Gold.

    Sign of things to come for the Proteas?

  • on August 13, 2012, 18:55 GMT

    They deserve it more than Eng who win only at their backyard.Great luck for Eng to be No.1 for more than 8 months.End of road for Eng!

  • Tjoeps on August 13, 2012, 18:59 GMT

    OK, you have talk the talk, now walk the walk.....

  • vakkaraju on August 13, 2012, 19:14 GMT

    Kirsten may become the first coach to accomplish a number 1 ranking for two separate test teams. Good luck.

  • Spelele on August 13, 2012, 19:19 GMT

    "It's that sort of strength that turns teams from good to great and South Africa have admitted great is what they are after." Should we slow down the hype just a bit Miss Moonda? No doubt SA are a class act, but they have their own weaknesses. For the sake of the team's sanity, I hope that none of the hype constructed over England is developed over this SA side. It can only damage them! Just enjoy this SA side and stop any talks of 'greatness' or insane comparisons to the great Aus/WI sides of the past. No side can AT THIS POINT in our cricketing history justify any of these claims!

  • Spelele on August 13, 2012, 19:19 GMT

    "It's that sort of strength that turns teams from good to great and South Africa have admitted great is what they are after." Should we slow down the hype just a bit Miss Moonda? No doubt SA are a class act, but they have their own weaknesses. For the sake of the team's sanity, I hope that none of the hype constructed over England is developed over this SA side. It can only damage them! Just enjoy this SA side and stop any talks of 'greatness' or insane comparisons to the great Aus/WI sides of the past. No side can AT THIS POINT in our cricketing history justify any of these claims!

  • dhoni_sachin_fan on August 13, 2012, 19:20 GMT

    Of course they want to be World No. 1. Who doesn't?

  • on August 13, 2012, 19:23 GMT

    It's impressive how many articles can you squeeze out of nothing.