England v South Africa - who will be number 1?

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Having let the dust settle on what was a disappointing Test series for England against South Africa, the cricketing world will now focus on the One Day International series between the two sides which gets underway in Cardiff tomorrow.


It came as no surprise when the England squads were announced earlier in the week for the one day series and subsequent World T20 in Sri Lanka next month, that the estranged star Kevin Pietersen was not picked for either squads. That drama surrounding Pietersen continues to rumble on and doesn't look like being sorted in the near future.


Having lost the number one ranking in the world for Test cricket earlier in the week to the South Africans, England One Day International captain Alastair Cook will be desperate to hold onto the coveted spot at the top of the One Day rankings. Whoever wins this series will find themselves proclaimed as the world's best. For the South Africans to come to these shores and return home having won both series would see them hold the number one ranking in all three formats of the game - Test, ODI, and T20. This is something England have achieved, but all too briefly sadly.


England come into this series in a rich vain of form having won all ten One Day Internationals they have contested in 2012 (not including abandoned games). This included a 4-0 win against the Australia which is no mean feat, however it was an Australian side who are by no means close to the side who dominated world cricket for so long over the last fifteen years.


The England squad includes some names who weren't involved in the recent Test series. These include Surrey bowler Jade Dernbach, Somerset 'keeper-batsman Craig Kieswetter, and Warwickshire all-rounder Chris Woakes. However, the key additions are those of Middlesex star Eoin Morgan, and the larger-than-life Samit Patel of Nottinghamshire. With the absence of talisman Pietersen, the onus will no doubt fall on Ian Bell at the top of the order and Morgan to find the runs the fallen star would no-doubt have made. There was a surprising addition of Essex's Ravi Bopara who has been struggling with off-field matters that forced him to withdraw from the Test squad after the first match against South Africa.


In terms of South Africa's squad, again the keys for them will be the batting prowess of captain AB de Villiers, Graeme Smith, and number one ranked ODI batsman, Hashim Amla. England will be pleased to see their destroyer at Lord's, Vernon Philander, not present but they will  have to contend with the number ranked bowler in ODIs, Lonwabo Tsotsobe alongside Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn.


In the Test series, England's fielding let them down and that could ultimately be what cost them the series and the position at the top of the Test pile. The home side have prided themselves in recent years on their discipline and I would expect to see them get back to the lofty standards which have served them so well. As the series heads into September, expect the toss to become more and more important with some early movement often likely with the new ball at the start of the game.


It is very difficult to choose a winner in the series and there are reasons to back both sides. Looking at how well the South Africans dominated England in all three facets of the game in the Test series is certainly worrying for the home side. Add to that the psychological boost for South Africa coming off the Test series victory and also the storm that is raging behind the scenes in the England dressing room, and it is hard not to favour the tourists. However, this could just be the change of scenery required for England to get their cricket back on track and the way they have performed with the white ball this year, who would bet against them.


Follow Olly Howick on Twitter: @Howie_21