Smith sets sights on number one spot
South Africa skipper Graeme Smith has set his sights on dislodging England as the number one Test team ahead of the forthcoming three-match Investec series.
England lead the International Cricket Council rankings by a solitary point from South Africa, who staged their first net of the tour indoors at Taunton today ahead of Monday’s clash with Somerset.
But Smith believes South Africa will have plenty of confidence for the meetings with Andrew Strauss’ team, which begin at The Kia Oval on July 19, as they have not lost an away Test series since 2006.
Smith said: “We hope getting to number one can be a reward for our consistency.
“We have been touching the (top of the) rankings for a long time now. We had a taste of it for a small while (in 2008). We’ve been top two and top three for a long time now and very close to the pinnacle.
“We are hoping now with everything we’ve done, and the way we’ve prepared, and are going to prepare, that we will be ready for the first Test at The Oval.”
Smith, who has recovered from ankle surgery, can sense a belief in the squad and will be motivated by South Africa's triumph on their last tour of England four years ago.
He said: “We have come here with a degree of quiet confidence. We have performed well away from home for a period of time now.
“We have that strength within the squad and strength in confidence to know we can perform well away from home.
“Having had a success here in 2008, we are hoping to build on that and taste that again.
“But England are a quality team and throughout all the years of touring here, it is always difficult to beat England.
“We have a lot of respect for the conditions here and the England cricket team.”
Smith has immense respect for England, but he has faith in his pace attack of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander - who has taken 51 wickets in seven Tests - to unsettle the England batsmen.
He said: “Dale and Morne have got proven records. Someone like Vernon has come in and done really well so I think as a unit they perform really well.
“They know their roles and seem to bowl spells that win games. It is nice to have match-winners in the squad. All players want to perform in these type of series and I’m sure Kevin Pietersen is no different.
“He has proved that he is a world-class player and we will respect him in the way we respect every other English batsman.
“But hopefully we will be able to find ways to get them out cheaply throughout the series and be able to create enough pressure.
“I believe we have got the bowlers to do that and hopefully in match play we can put that into practice.”