England keen to remain number one
England will be out to protect their hard-earned world number one status and make sure they do not become “one-hit wonders” when the third Test gets under way in Dubai tomorrow.
After two unexpected defeats against Pakistan, Andrew Strauss’ tourists are in danger of suffering a 3-0 series whitewash.
Should that happen, a 3-0 win for South Africa in New Zealand next month will be enough to see England fall from the summit of the International Cricket Council Test rankings.
They are well aware, unsurprisingly, of what is potentially at stake at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium and James Anderson has spelled out England’s determination to put things right quickly.
“It’s been our goal for a number of years,” the fast bowler said of the number one spot England claimed for the first time in their history last summer.
“We don’t want to just be one-hit wonders, get there, have six months of lapping up everyone saying how good you are - and then disappearing.
“We want to stay there as long as we possibly can, and that’s why we need to win this game.”
As well as avoiding a whitewash, England need to win - or at least stave off a third successive defeat - to rebuild confidence, with tours of Sri Lanka and India also on the schedule this year, that they can do themselves justice in Asia.
There is also the prospect of hosting South Africa in three Tests this summer, something England still hope to do as table-toppers rather than second in line.
“That’s another thing driving us forward to win that game, because we want to be in a really good position when South Africa come to England in the summer,” said Anderson.
“When we became number one we wanted to set new goals - and as a team, we’ve chatted often about wanting to become the best England team there ever has been.
“We’ve not got off to a great start doing that. But the beauty of this team is we have got strong characters in the dressing-room, guys that can face up to the pressure we’re under at the minute in this series.”
Anderson could be forgiven - on pitches which have favoured slow bowlers from either side, especially Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman - for wishing he could swap his pace for spin.
He will just have to stick to what he does best, though, and remains optimistic that the rewards will come.
“The seamers have taken plenty of wickets on these pitches,” he said. “Broady [Stuart Broad] bowled well in the last game; Umar Gul got wickets in the first one.
“There’s plenty there for the seamers; it’s just that the spinners have outshone them in the first two Tests.”