That number one millstone has…

…gone in tests.

England go into today’s one day international against South Africa trying to hang onto their top place in the rankings for the 50 over game but the one that really matters is gone.

Yeah I know bit late on this, interweb troubles.

So England are outclassed by the visiting South Africans who took over the top spot in the table much in the same way England outclassed India a year ago to take the title.

England only really came to the party for any length during the last match. They reminded me of the West Indies touring side earlier in the season, competing for small periods of time, but being able to keep their foot on the opposition throats when on top. So there was periods through the three tests where South Africa were a few wickets down for next to nothing and before you know it someone got in and the runs started coming as the wickets dried up. It was almost like the bad old days of England, get other side 5 down for less about 40 to 60, in comes a wicket keeper, all rounder, bowler – see Ian Healy, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne in past years – and what looked like getting them all out for around 100 they finish up on the wrong end of 300 plus.

Wickets were hard to come by against a quality batting side like the South African’s have. England’s bowling didn’t help. For all the worshipping of Jimmy Anderson, his 9 wickets came at nearly 45 apiece. Oh he was unlucky, number of very good balls got no reward. No he was back to his usual fair, wide, long hops picking up most of his victims. In between times he was lifeless, getting no movement from the air or the pitch, while Steyn, Morkel, Kallis and Philander did. Stuart Broad, there’s something not right with him. No pace, no zip. Just not what we know he can produce.

Swann is another one except it’s more to do with South Africa knowing how to negate his wicket taking abilities. Four wickets at 77 tell us everything about his struggles. Now they nagged and nagged about Monty having to find something new because he bowled the same game after game, will they be doing the same with Swann?

Though a 300 first innings score wouldn’t be so bad if England could put on the 500s that they did so regularly when chasing that number one spot. But the batting wasn’t there along with the bowling. Starting from the very top, Strauss and Cook struggled. There was only one opening partnership over 50, no 100 opening stand. Three innings had a wicket fall before 10 was on the board.

While the South African top 4 averaged above nearly 55, Smith lowest with 54, Amla highest with 120, Strauss could only manage 17 and a bit Cook not much better with 32.5. There wasn’t much that followed those two either. Trott was a surprise just over 40, while Bell wasn’t a surprise, come the tough games we see the true Bell. Again as stated before if he hasn’t had those above him softening up the bowling he’s found wanting. Bottling it on a number of occasions, no easy runs here has he’s fed on for a couple of years now, boosting his numbers to a false level.

Only one above 50 being Pietersen. Poor old Kev the world is against him. He chooses to play probably his best ever innings for England on the gold Saturday of the Olympics. His 149 is not even immediately forgotten but never even noticed as the gold medals start piling up for the GB competitors.

Then through all the joy of those medals to go with all the others while talk of the Olympic spirit Kevin spits the dummy. Poor old Kev, someone is being nasty about him. Poor precious Kevin. You’re not allowed to take the piss, his mummy said so. Those naughty boys are making jokes about him.

While he sends texts slagging of his captain. Funny he complains about one rule for one.

Honestly good riddance to a mercenary who has used England hopefully for the last time. The only really surprise of this whole saga is that Pietersen has friends in the South African camp. He hasn’t got many in the England one.

Yes he scored runs, yes he was box office but he isn’t bigger than the team and if the team is unsettled and it’s a contributing factor in their slip from the high standards set previously when chasing that number one spot then you can’t keep him around.

And in Jonny Bairstow we’ve got the good old Yorkshire boy to replace him as the big hitter.

All that crap about him not being up to the short stuff put to bed with his knocks in the final test at Lord’s against one of the best pace attacks you’ll see. Four top quality bowlers in Steyn, Morkel, Philander and Kallis, tried to do him over while he showed that what went on against the West Indies was just an off day, as anyone can have especially in the first test match outings.

And when you thought it couldn’t get any worse as the batting and bowling failed up popped the fielding and down popped the catches. How many were dropped? And how many of those drops were incredibly costly?

So through a ridiculously short three match test series between the top two ranking sides South Africa deservedly won 2-0 after England again squandered the chance to, undeservedly, draw the series in the final match – just a couple of partnerships involving the likes of Strauss, Cook and Bell, would have done it. In all departments of the game they were head and shoulders ahead of the hosts.

So now can England get back to the top spot?

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