LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 19: Captains Andrew Strauss of England and Graeme Smith of South Africa at the toss during day 1 of the 1st Investec Test Match between England and South Africa at The Kia Oval on July 19, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)

Andrew Strauss has called on England’s Test side to prove they are worthy of the world No 1 ranking ahead of the three-match series against South Africa.

England must avoid defeat to hold on to the top spot they stole from India last summer, and Strauss said: “South Africa are a very fine side and they’ll be determined to knock us off our perch. There will be an extra bit of spice, but every series I’ve played against South Africa has always been very keenly contested and I don’t think this will be different. It will be a good gauge for us. The rankings say we are No 1 and we have to prove that.”

South Africa captain Graeme Smith knows a repeat of his side’s series win here four years ago will see them top the rankings. “I guess being chased by a pack does come with pressure,” he said. Smith, who will win his 100th Test cap today, insisted South Africa have been the best all-round team in recent years. They have not lost an away series since going down 2-0 in Sri Lanka in 2006, and he said: “In all conditions I think we’ve been the most consistent team over a period of time.”

Meanwhile, England have, as expected, omitted Kevin Pietersen from their provisional 30-man squad for September’s defence of the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka. His agent Adam Wheatley said: “It’s a shame for cricket fans. If there is a compromise to be reached we’d be happy to assist, but from what I sense, this decision is final.”

There is room in the squad for Alastair Cook, the 50-over captain who has not played a Twenty20 international since November 2009. There are recalls too for Ian Bell and Matt Prior, and Yorkshire’s uncapped 21-year old opener Joe Root and Lancashire batsman Steven Croft are included. – Daily Mail