TAUNTON (England), July 7: South Africa captain Graeme Smith has set his side the challenge of displacing England as the world’s number one Test side during their forthcoming three-match series.

England lead the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings by a mere point from the Proteas, who held the first net of their tour at Taunton on Saturday ahead of Monday’s match against southwest county Somerset.

But South Africa are in confident mood, having not lost an away Test series since 2006.

“We hope getting to number one can be a reward for our consistency,” said Smith. “We have been touching the [top of the] rankings for a long time now.

“We had a taste of it for a small while [in 2008]. We’ve been top two and top three for a long time now and very close to the pinnacle.

“We are hoping now with everything we’ve done, and the way we've prepared, and are going to prepare, that we will be ready for the first Test at The Oval [starting on July 19],” Smith stated.

The opening batsman led South Africa to a 2-1 Test series win during their last tour of England four years ago and he was confident the current side could repeat that success.

“We have come here with a degree of quiet confidence,” added Smith, recently recovered from an ankle injury. We have performed well away from home for a period of time now.

“We have that strength within the squad and strength in confidence to know we can perform well away from home.

“Having had a success here in 2008, we are hoping to build on that and taste that again,” the skipper remarked. “But England are a quality team and throughout all the years of touring here, it is always difficult to beat England. We have a lot of respect for the conditions here and the England cricket team.”—AFP

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