England look to turn tables on the Proteas
ENGLAND are determined not to let off-field distractions affect their preparation to turn the ODI series around after their 80-run defeat by South Africa on Tuesday.
They say they are going into the third ODI of the five-match series, at the Oval today, in a positive frame of mind.
But there will inevitably be a hangover from Andrew Strauss's shock resignation from all forms of cricket on Wednesday, not least for ODI captain Alastair Cook, who was told he is taking the test team to India in the next series after the T20 World Cup.
"I am tremendously excited to be given this honour, but right now I am trying to focus on the one-day series against South Africa," he said. "Once this is over, I will turn my attention to the test captaincy and building on the work Andrew has started."
England bowler Steve Finn said yesterday that there was shock and sadness in the dressing room when they were told the news while they were still coming to terms with their defeat on Tuesday night.
"But we can't let it distract us," he said. "We have had a chat about what we are going to do to stop South Africa, and we still have three ODIs to turn it around."
There is doubt about the fitness of James Anderson, so Finn could be leading the attack.
Off-spinner Graeme Swann is also to be rested for the remainder of the series, and his place has been taken by James Tredwell.
South Africa are in fine form. Dale Steyn, who struggled with a stiff neck, is back in the frame for selection, as is Hashim Amla, who provided the anchor for South Africa's score of 287 with an entertaining 150. Amla pulled a muscle while fielding as he tried to stop an awkwardly bouncing ball, but there is no lasting damage.
Proteas captain AB de Villiers, while "proud" of the achievement of becoming No1 in ODIs, is more concerned that his team continues to play attacking cricket.
"It's getting to be a bit of a trend now, bowling out the opposition. That was the most encouraging thing about the game [on Tuesday], apart from Hashim's great knock - the performance of the bowlers was fantastic."
But he warned: "England did not play their best . So we must expect them to come back at us with a much better performance."
Concentrating on positive cricket will bring its own reward, he says. For England, it will be a test of their mettle.