Cricket: Ian Bell-inspired victory will keep England as ODI No 1

England’s win over South Africa yesterday ensures they will remain top of the International Cricket Council ODI rankings for the rest of this year – whether or not they win the series.

Ian Bell (88) saw England to a comfortable six-wicket victory with more than three overs to spare in pursuit of South Africa’s 220 for eight.

England captain Alastair Cook said: “We’re still striving to improve in all areas. We’ve only been together for a year or so. “We’ve had some really good results, but certainly don’t really feel like the number one side – like we did when we got there as a Test team.”

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England, of course, lost that Test match pre-eminence to South Africa this summer – and Cook is proud of the way they have held their nerve after going 1-0 down in this series in Southampton last week.

Since then, England’s Test captain Andrew Strauss has retired and the saga over Kevin Pietersen’s controversial differences with England management continues. Cook added: “Clearly after what’s happened this summer, we could have let our heads go down - a bit of a case of ‘here we go again’.

“We admitted we didn’t get it right at the Ageas Bowl, and we’ve bounced back really well.”