England one-day captain Alastair Cook is confident his side can continue their winning ways despite the Kevin Pietersen controversy.
Cook has led England to the top of the 50-over rankings on the back of 10 wins without defeat in 2012. But, just like in the recently-completed Test series, England's status is set to come under threat from South Africa in the five-match NatWest one-day internationals series that begins in Cardiff on Friday.
He said: "We are going to have to be at our best to try and win. Hopefully, we can continue on that upward curve. We've got a long way to go whatever the rankings say - we have a long way to go in the journey of this side and developing and improving."
The tourists stole away England's place at the top of the Test tree when they completed a 2-0 series success at Lord's with Pietersen absent following the texting saga that has undermined the summer.
The 32-year-old will again be on the sidelines for the 50-over matches, as he instead faces clear-the-air talks with Test skipper Andrew Strauss to try and build the first bridge towards a resolution.
While Cook admits the "sad" situation is not ideal he believes his side, who trounced Australia 4-0 earlier this summer without Pietersen, can continue their winning run against the Proteas.
"It has happened. Certainly there are a number of issues that will get resolved and have to get resolved," Cook said. "For me personally it's obviously a sad situation but as a side we need to put it to one side. We played some really good cricket at Lord's even though we didn't get the result; and to be fair he hasn't been around the one-day squad for a while."
England must win the series to ensure they remain at the top of the International Cricket Council's one-day international rankings and avoid ceding their place to the South Africans twice in the same summer.
Cook believes starting well on Friday will be important to his side's chances of fending off the Proteas' threat. "In any one-day series it's important to start well," he said. "We saw against Australia we got our noses ahead and they found it very hard to come back. When you can do that it makes it a lot easier going into the later games."
England: A Cook (c), J Anderson, J Bairstow, I Bell, R Bopara, T Bresnan, J Dernbach, S Finn, C Kieswetter, E Morgan, S Patel, G Swann, J Trott, C Woakes.