CRICKET: Victory guarantees England stay top

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ENGLAND’s win over South Africa at Lord’s ensures they will remain top of the International Cricket Council rankings for the rest of this year - whether or not they win the NatWest Series.

Number one status appears to have changed hands on an almost daily basis between the top two teams over the past week.

But there is something more definitive for the number crunchers to hang on to now, after Ian Bell (88) saw England to a comfortable six-wicket victory yesterday with more than three overs to spare in pursuit of South Africa’s 220 for eight. It puts them 2-1 up in the series after the hosts levelled things up on Friday as they claimed a four-wicket win at the Oval.

That is not to say the protagonists themselves are especially concerned with the fine margins at play at the top of the table.

England captain Alastair Cook, it seems, will prize a series-clinching victory at Trent Bridge on Wednesday more highly than a mantle he admits feels a little premature for his developing one-day international side.

“It’s certainly not a bad thing,” he said.

“But I think we feel this side has its future ahead of it, rather than behind it.

“We’re still striving to improve in all areas. We’ve only been together for a year or so.

“We’ve had some really good results, but certainly don’t (really) feel like the number one side - like we did when we got there as a Test team.”