England captain Michael Vaughan hailed a "very special" achievement after his team completed a record eighth successive Test win by beating South Africa by seven wickets on the fifth day of the first Test at St George's Park yesterday.
While England celebrated, South African captain Graeme Smith made a thinly veiled criticism of his country's administrators, who have sacked two coaches, two convenors of selectors and one captain in the past two-and-a-half years.
"We need to stabilize in South African cricket," Smith said. "We have to get on a path and work towards a goal. As a captain you start something and then six months later you have to start again, with a new coach, new convenor and new players. The United Cricket Board have to stabilize the key positions. The more you jump around the worse things become."
Smith vowed that South Africa intended to come back strongly in the five-Test series.
"When we were in England last year we started well and England came back, so we've had it happen to us. We have to regroup quickly. We have to improve on a few areas of our game, especially under pressure," he said.
Andrew Strauss was England's star, taking the man of the match award with innings of 126 and 94 not out. He made 43 of the 52 runs scored by England yesterday as they took only 36 minutes and 9.4 overs to complete their victory.
"His attitude is spot on," Vaughan said. "He doesn't get too high when he's doing well or too low when he's not performing. His technique is pretty good and mentally he's got the ability to be a star for England for many years to come."
Vaughan said the whole team had shown character in coming back from a defeat by South Africa A in their only warm-up game before the Test.
"We were under pressure coming into this match. A lot of mental resolve was needed," he said.
Vaughan said it was encouraging that England had won despite not performing to their full potential, although he said his players expected South Africa to "hit back hard" in the second Test starting in Durban on Sunday.
"We need to be up for that challenge," he added.
He said of the eight-match winning streak: "It wasn't something I was thinking about coming into the match. I just wanted us to put in a good performance. But now that we've done it I know we've created something very special."
England's win beats a record that had stood for 116 years. England won seven Tests between 1884 and 1885, as well as 1887 and 1888, a record that was equalled in the 1928 to 1929 season.
England's record sequence started when they beat New Zealand in all three home Tests earlier this year and followed up by a 4-0 clean sweep at home against the West Indies.
"Every time this team have been asked a question about their character, they've answered it," Vaughan said.
The England team moved into joint fifth on an all-time list that is headed by Australia, who won 16 times in a row between 1999 and 2000 as well as 2000 and 2001.
England, needing 142 to win, resumed at 93 for three under a heavily overcast sky, with showers predicted. Any hopes South Africa might have had of making England struggle for the 49 runs needed were quickly blown away by Strauss, who hit 19 runs off the first three overs of the day, including a pulled six off fast bowler Dale Steyn.
Strauss continued to play aggressively and finished the match in style with two boundaries off Makhaya Ntini.