Graeme Swann knows England will come out fighting, after their 'kick up the backside' at The Oval, in defence of their world number one Test status.

England's lofty position will be on the line at Headingley, where they must at least avoid defeat to keep South Africa in the pack in the International Cricket Council rankings.

"It's the old kick up the a***, isn't it?" he asked, as he reflected on a trouncing which saw South Africa pile up 637 for two declared and the losers bowled out twice for 625 last week. "I think that prompted that meeting afterwards, and prompted a lot of honesty and people saying that's not going to happen again."

After England's innings defeat in the first match of three - an experience Swann describes as "public humiliation" - Graeme Smith's team need only win once more to bag their hosts' crown.

But at a venue where Swann himself has had conspicuously little success, the off-spinner is convinced not only can he put behind him figures of none for 151 but England can settle a score too. England have often, but not always, been adept at bouncing back under captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower.

"You can approach everything holistically and be a bit trendy-lefty," Swann said. "But sometimes a size 10 up the backside is what you need. And if ever you have a boot up the a*** it was last week, wasn't it? It was a sort of public humiliation by the end of it, fielding that long and then getting skittled afterwards."

The straight-talking session had echoes of the self-examinations following the collapse to 51 all out in Jamaica and then an innings defeat Swann himself remembers all too well, at Headingley of all places, on the way to 2009 Ashes glory.

"Sometimes it adds up to a perfect storm. That makes you look like a very ordinary bowling attack - which is what they did," Swann said. "But we won't get too down-hearted. Sometimes you have an unresponsive ball in your hands on a pitch that seems to mock you every time you try to get it to do something.

"I'm pretty convinced we are not going to have the same sort of deck this week. I am an eternal optimist... I think if we viewed last week in black and white, then we're screwed and we've got no chance.

"But I don't see like it that. I see it as we can't possibly play as badly again. We have sat down and looked at what we did and realised 'well, we're not going to do that again'. That meeting brought a lot of things to the surface."