London: England batsman Ian Bell admits his side have paid the price for resting on their laurels after reaching the top of the Test world rankings. Andrew Strauss's team must beat South Africa in the third and final Test at Lord's next week to retain the number one spot and Bell believes they will have only themselves to blame if the Proteas move above them.
England have produced two lacklustre displays against South Africa so far to fall 1-0 down in the series and that is symptomatic of their recent inconsistency. Bell is concerned that Strauss's side have lost five of their 10 Tests since replacing India as number one and he wants them to show renewed hunger in the third Test.
"We were so hungry to get to number one and that feeling of chasing number one is something that drove us really hard," Bell said."It's been a bit different being the team being chased by the other teams, a bit like the position India were in last year. Andy Flower (team director) was keen to remind us that the hard work was only just starting when we got to number one. It's like getting your first Test cap. You think you've made it but there is such a huge journey after that."
"Getting to number one was just part of it. We wanted as a group to stay there as long as possible. But we haven't performed. Over the last 12 months we haven't really been in the form of the last three years so it's put us under pressure to stay there. We have got to learn from these lessons if we want to keep being number one or if we want to get back there if we lose the spot."
Bell admits South Africa's knack of taking early wickets and ability to bat for long periods has given them the edge so far in the series. But the Warwickshire player believes there were encouraging signs at Headingley and that South Africa will be conscious of England's ability to retrieve the current situation. "Things just started to turn at the end of the Headingley Test and hopefully we can take that momentum into Lord's," Bell said. "We have always believed we can beat any team - certainly in England. We know we can beat South Africa. I think they fully know and respect the fact that we can beat them."The three series I have played against South Africa have been really tough and really close and I don't expect this Test match to be any different."