Win would put Strauss’ side in seventh heave
England have identified today's match against South Africa at Newlands as an acid test of their one-day international progress.
An opening victory at Centurion last weekend means England can take an unbeatable 2-0 lead if they see off their hosts for what would be a seventh successive time, dating back to August last year.
It is an encouraging scenario for captain Andrew Strauss, also well aware South Africa will be determined to bounce back at a venue where they have a formidable record.
Several factors are therefore in place to help indicate how much England are improving as an ODI force.
“There is a long-term plan in improving our one-day cricket — and these sorts of games are the ones that can really take us forward,” said Strauss.
“We've said in the past we've always responded well to defeat but have not been quite so great on building on a good performance.
“We're going to try to put ourselves under a bit of pressure this game to make sure we build on that.”
Strauss knows a chastened South Africa will not be making things easy.
“They are going to come back hard at us,” he predicted.
“There's no doubt about that — they're always competitive anyway but they wouldn't have enjoyed losing that first game.
“We're expecting them to come here all guns blazing.”
The answer, according to Strauss, is for England to attack an already advantageous situation rather than engage in cautious consolidation.
“We've got ourselves in a nice position to really turn the screw in this one-day series — now is not the time to let up,” he warned.
“We mustn't take our foot off the pedal.
“We need to use that victory on Sunday as a means of trying to push it to another level,” he added.
Among those facing an examination of resolve today is fit-again seamer Stuart Broad.
He has not played since suffering a shoulder injury three weeks ago but is expected to be thrown back into the thick of it — with South Africa already making noises about exploiting his possible vulnerabilities in his first match back.