England lose Test and number one ranking

England lost the third Test and their number one Test nation status in a thrilling match at Lords. Chasing an unlikely 346 to win the match and level the series, England briefly threatened to chase down the daunting total until they finally succumbed to the precision bowling of Vernon Plhilander.

With England’s openers once again failing with the bat, it was left to the inexperienced Jonny Bairstow to begin a counter-attack, with a rapid half-century. His example inspired Matthew Prior and Graeme Swann to emerge after the tea interval in aggressive mood. As they hammered numerous balls to the boundary, the South Africans began to think the unthinkable.

Once Swann was out, England’s dream of an implausible fightback was over. South Africa took over at the top of the rankings, and it was deserved as they had dominated the series.

England showed admirable fight and team spirit after the Kevin Pietersen controversy. "We were never the favourites today," captain Andrew Strauss said, "but the guys showed spirit and the attitude they showed was of great credit to the players. South Africa were the better side over the course of the series and thoroughly deserved their victory. We've learned a lot and it's a shame to hand it over, but they deserve to be number one and we will come back."

South Africa captain Graeme Smith said, "England played with freedom and we had to work hard. There was some great batting from Swann and Prior but it was wonderful to come through."

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