Leeds: South African captain Graeme Smith on Wednesday said the current Proteas team were the best group of men he had been involved with and were determined to become the best Test team in the world.
"I'm not going to try to be nice about it, we are training every day to try to be that team," Smith said on the eve of the second Test against England at Headingley. "We need to walk that walk and go out to the middle and win those games to prove that to people.
"Our mindset is that we would love to be holders of that title." Smith, who has captained South Africa since 2003, was asked whether the current team was the best he had led. "I think so," was his reply. "We've got most of our bases covered and as a group of men, certainly it is the best group of men that I have been around." South Africa will take the number one ranking from England if they win at Headingley to clinch the three-match series, following their innings and 12 runs victory in the first Test at the Oval.
Smith acknowledged that there was a tight battle at the top of the rankings, with several teams in content_cnion, all wanting to open some space between themselves and the next team. "That's the challenge for all of us, to try and get that gap. Cricket is exciting at the moment because of it. All the teams are tight and every series is exciting to watch among the top teams.
"Our goal is to push forward, as is England’s. If we are the team that could push forward and play consistently at the top level, that’s our goal along with every other team." However, Smith’s opposite number Andrew Strauss admitted that England are set on making up for the disappointment of the Oval.
"There's quite a steely determination to put on a better showing here this week," he said. "Clearly we were disappointed with the way we played at The Oval. There were some regrets about the way we played. "I've always felt, certainly when I've been with an England side, that when you’ve had a loss like that it drives people to really come out with something special the week after."
"There have been some good examples of that in the last couple of years, and I'm expecting something similar this week." Smith's challenge is different as he seeks another top performance from his team. He said a long flight to Cape Town between Tests for the birth of his daughter Cadence had given him time for reflection.
"Thirteen or fourteen hours alone allows you to put in perspective what you've been through and get yourself in a space for focusing on preparation."
"We just want to win the game, you don't focus on winning by an innings or having someone score 300, those are wonderful moments as a team to be part of but we’ve had enough time between games to come back to earth and refocus on what we want to achieve as a team.
"We understand coming to Headingley that it is a very different mindset being able to play and be successful here. We're also very respectful of England and and we’re certainly not taking anything for granted."