Ian Bell admits England have not performed during the past 12 months since becoming the number one Test side in the world.
Bell knows England have to be back to their best if they are to retain pole position by beating South Africa in the third Investec Test at Lord's next week. Failure to do so will mean the Proteas, who lead the series 1-0, replacing them in the top berth.
England had lost five of their nine Tests since replacing India as number one before producing an encouraging display in the drawn clash at Headingley with Graeme Smith's side. Bell said: "We were so hungry to get to number one and that feeling of chasing number one is something that drove us really hard."
He added: "It's been a bit different being the team being chased by the other teams, a bit like the position India were in last year. That's been a change and also how people have viewed us as well.
"Andy Flower (team director) was keen to remind us that the hard work was only just starting when we got to number one.
"It's like getting your first Test cap. You think you've made it but there is such a huge journey after that. Getting to number one was just part of it. We wanted as a group to stay there as long as possible.
"But we haven't performed. Over the last 12 months we haven't really been in the form of the last three years so it's put us under pressure to stay there. We have got to learn from these lessons if we want to keep being number one or if we want to get back there if we lose the spot."
Bell admits South Africa's knack of taking early wickets and ability to bat for long periods has given them the edge so far in the series. But the Warwickshire player believes there were encouraging signs at Headingley and that South Africa will be conscious of England's ability to retrieve the current situation.
Bell said: "Things just started to turn at the end of the Headingley Test and hopefully we can take that momentum into Lord's.
"We have always believed we can beat any team - certainly in England. We know we can beat South Africa. I think they fully know and respect the fact that we can beat them."