For the first time since they became the world's No. 1 Test team, England face a serious threat to their perch. The loss by an innings and 12 runs to South Africa at The Oval was England's fifth loss in nine Tests. But Alastair Cook, England's vice-captain, believes a turnaround is not impossible in the second Test starting August 2 at Headingley.
"It would be an amazing achievement to beat a side like South Africa and it is certainly not out of the question," said Cook to The Daily Star. "I know it's all doom and gloom now but we know how things can happen in Test cricket. We have just got to make sure we steel ourselves for fighting for those five days."
Reflecting on England's comprehensive defeat in the first Test where they could pick up only two South African wickets, at the cost of 637 runs in 189 overs, Cook conceded it was a case of the opponents being supremely motivated to beat the No. 1 team. "We gave our all and were not good enough. South Africa ground us down very well with the bat. It was an incredible batting performance that reminded me of what we did to Australia in Brisbane in 2010," said Cook.
Despite the heavy defeat, the England team management have retained faith in their personnel for the second Test, with James Taylor's inclusion at the expense of Ravi Bopara, who managed just 22 runs in the first Test, being the only change. Cook echoed the sentiments of the national selectors.
"When we play well we're probably not as good a side as everyone says, and when we play badly we didn't just become a bad side," said Cook. "I know that we have some outstanding cricketers in our dressing room but we must play closer to our potential."
Cook, who made a century in the first innings at The Oval, felt it was important for England to seize the advantage at crucial junctures. "In Test cricket, momentum and pressure ebbs and flows. And if we get a chance we need to put them under some pressure. If you look at the team we have got a lot of people with a lot of experience. We have been through a lot of different situations as a side and we know how to deal with them."