Kirsten focused on South Africa target
Since England became the top-ranked Test team South Africa have aspired to take that accolade in all forms of cricket, their coach Gary Kirsten has said.
Already at the Twenty20 summit, the Proteas can add the Test accolade by avoiding defeat in this week’s Investec series finale at Lord’s. By the end of their tour, they could lead in one-day internationals too.
South Africa took over from England at the top of the T20 table after the International Cricket Council’s annual update of the rankings last week, when their current hosts reached the ODI summit for the first time.
The NatWest Series and NatWest International T20s could change both of the limited-overs standings again, but Kirsten is prioritising the Test table this week.
"Way back in August last year we put a peg in the ground and said we wanted to become the best cricket team in the world in all forms of the game," he said.
"Some people say we are not sure about the rankings; does it hold any water? But deep down every team aspires to it. They like to know they are number one in those rankings. We certainly take it with importance."
Jonny Bairstow’s inclusion at the expense of Kevin Pietersen for the Lord’s game means South Africa are set to face a new middle-order batsman in every Test of the three-game series.
At the Kia Oval Ravi Bopara played his first Test versus the Proteas, but his subsequent unavailability for personal reasons saw James Taylor make a five-day debut at Headingley Carnegie. Now Taylor is set to be feature alongside Bairstow.
Although Taylor and Bairstow have four Test caps between them, Kirsten is adament the tourists will treat the young duo with respect.
"We will focus on our preparation and the work that we do. We always respect the opposition," he added.
"We understand we are playing against quality opposition. We will never under-estimate any team, we will never go into any Test match complacent and arrive thinking the job is done.
"We will do the preparation necessary to look at the opposition and what they have got in their team and how we can exploit certain areas.
"We don't focus heavily on individuals; we look at their team make-up and we look at ways we can exploit. It is no different to what we would do in a normal Test match.
"We like to believe if we get our stuff right and we get our preparation right and we execute in the right way, we are a difficult team to beat.
"We need to be humble every hour of the Test match to make sure we set a strong foundation to give us a good chance of getting the success we want in the Test match.
"We will go out there and play our brand of aggressive cricket because we believe that is key to our success."