England are set to regain their place at the summit of the 50-over world rankings.
London: Alastair Cook was in an upbeat mood after England topped a memorable few days for their captain with a six-wicket win in the fourth one-day international against South Africa at Lord's on Sunday. A week that saw England fall 1-0 behind in this five-match series following an 80-run thrashing in Southampton on Tuesday ended with them 2-1 in front after a four-wicket victory across London at The Oval on Friday was followed by Sunday's success at Lord's. In between going 1-0 down and levelling at 1-1, Cook, the one-day skipper for more than a year, was appointed England's Test captain after his long-standing opening partner Andrew Strauss retired from all cricket on Wednesday.
England, who had been knocked off top spot in all three international formats by South Africa this season are now set to regain their place at the summit of the 50-over world rankings even if the Proteas square a series, which started with a no-result in Cardiff, at 2-2 by winning Wednesday's finale in Nottingham. Cook's bowlers backed him up after he won the toss in overcast conditions at Lord's by restricting South Africa to 220 for 8. Then, after Cook himself fell early to Dale Steyn, a stand of 141 between the Warwickshire duo of Man of the Match Ian Bell (88) and Jonathan Trott (48) saw England chase down the bulk of their target as they won with 20 balls to spare.
New-ball duo Steven Finn, on his Middlesex home ground, and James Anderson both proved difficult to get away. Finn might have had two early wickets but for spinner James Tredwell, who later took 3 for 35, dropping a couple of slip catches. "It was a really good performance again," said Cook. "When you win a toss in those conditions you need to make the most of it and I thought we did. Finn and Jimmy asked plenty of questions up front. A couple of chances went down but we hung in there. Then with the bat we had that really good partnership between Bell and Trotty which probably got us most of the way home. We came here to win the series, we had a slow start but now it is 2-1 and all to play for at Trent Bridge."
Bell has been in fine form since replacing Kevin Pietersen, now in England exile following "provocative" texts he sent to South African players, at the top of the order in one-dayers earlier this season. "It's been good, it's nice to get to the top of order," said Bell, who faced 137 balls with a six and eight fours on Sunday. Meanwhile South Africa captain AB de Villiers criticised his middle-order after they failed to score enough runs for the second match in a row. "Unfortunately the middle-order failed again so we'll have to look at that," said de Villiers, carelessly stumped for 39 when well set. "The guys will have to have a look at themselves, including me. It's a matter of knuckling down. We go to Trent Bridge 2-1 down but we could make it 2-2 which would be quite a good result."