x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

England cricketers desperate to remain No 1

"We have guys who can face up to the pressure in this series," says James Anderson, the seam bowler, as England look to avoid a Test series whitewash against Pakistan and preserve their top rank.

DUBAI // Where's your aura gone? So sang the Barmy Army, England's faithful travelling cricket supporters, as they watched their side trample all over their previous tormentors from Australia during last winter's Ashes series.

At least they had one, the newly beleaguered Australians might have countered, having become the bullied after being the bullies for so long.

Near on two decades of continued excellence does that for a team. You do not get one just for tasting a bit of success, then follow it up with a swift regression.

It is a point not wasted on this England side, for whom that Ashes success was a vital step along the way to becoming, midway through last year, the Test side officially ranked as the best in the world. After so far failing their trial by spin, England have already lost their first Test series since reaching the top of the pile, and they still have one match to go against Pakistan in the UAE.

Lose the third match, which starts at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium tomorrow, to complete a series whitewash, and their position at No 1 in the official standings - let alone people's minds - will already be in jeopardy.

Rather than the Australia of the Noughties, they are in danger of become the India of 2011/12, who briefly touched the summit, yet have spent all the time since trying to persuade everyone it was just a mirage.

England have designs on greatness, however, and are insistent they can salvage something positive from their time in the Emirates.

"Our goal was to become No 1," James Anderson, the fast bowler, said yesterday.

"When we became No 1, we wanted to set new goals, and as a team we chatted often about wanting to become the best England team there ever has been.

"We have not got off to a great start at doing that, but the beauty of this team is we have got strong characters in the dressing room. We have guys who can face up to the pressure in this series."

Pakistan have provided a tougher test than some might have predicted in this series.

This was not the way England wanted to start a year which will bring with it two more tours of the subcontinent, and the visit to the UK of the side best placed to assume their top spot, South Africa.

Anderson acknowledged that losing, especially the manner in which they have wilted under the pressure Pakistan's spinners have brought to bear, has been tough for the players to accept.

"The way we have performed over the past couple of years, we are not used to losing series and Test matches," he said.

"We don't want to be one-hit wonders, get there for six months, and lap up everyone saying how good you are, then disappear. We want to stay [at No 1] for as long as we possibly can. We want to be in a really good position when South Africa come to England in the summer."



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