Monday, March 7, 2011

England vs. South Africa

England 171 (Bopara 60, Trott 52, Tahir 4-38) beat South Africa 165 (Amla 42, Broad 4-15) by six runs

If there is anything I will recommend for the remaining weeks of this competition is wake up and watch England whenever and whoever they are playing you will get everything and sometimes a little more.

It wasn't very clear at the end of the England innings as to if they had been taken by a ruthless attack, or the pitch had played a part in the 171. Bopara again keeps his head above water in the eyes of the selectors with a scratchy 60, and without repeating myself from previous posts he still doesn't look comfortable in his own kit. Trott again showing that he is emerging into a classic one-day player and at this rate will be a mentioned in the same breath as some of the greats of this format with his 52.

At 171 I had South Africa to blitz this target, Smith and Amla could put this on most days in a canter. The wicket proved to be one of the best so far  [discounting the Bangladesh dust bowl Thursday] Despite the tricky pitch, South Africa had broken the back of the run-chase after an opening stand of 63 between Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla. Looking seemingly in total control South Africa tighten up at the crease and in doing so lost 3 wickets for 19, the biggest being Kallis very early off Broad. Who should be said deferred the use of the review and instead went to Prior himself to check the catch, Prior gave him the nod of yes, and Kallis tucked his bat under his arm (if only they all played so nice)

AB de Villiers, who began the tournament with back-to-back hundreds, and du Plessis are normally free-flowing batsman, but they decided to consolidate rather than attack during their 42-run stand. It wasn't a major problem for South Africa at the time with the asking rate remaining comfortable, but it conceded the momentum and when the breakthroughs came England still had runs to play with.

Anderson produced a great burst of reverse-swing as he trimmed de Villiers' bails and then clattered JP Duminy's stumps two balls after he'd been reprieved by the DRS having been given caught down the leg side. It had been a controversial moment because there didn't seem enough evidence to overrule the on-field umpire, but Anderson soon made it irrelevant. In between those two wickets, Bell showed brilliant alertness at short leg as he stopped du Plessis's shot and flicked it to Prior in time to complete the run out.

With the loss of Duminy you could sense that despite a target only 40 odd runs away, it seems a bridge too far and the South Africans looked defeated from the players balcony. Michael Yardy, the weak link in the attack, then had Peterson caught behind trying to cut but the mandatory ball-change at 34 overs meant the threat of reverse swing was momentarily removed. Strauss showed inspired captaincy in keeping Swann back and bowling Pietersen and Yardy in tandem, a spell that could well have ended KP's tournament with a hernia.

Because of the extensive use of the spinners Strauss was able to return to his quicks at the death and with 12 needed Tim Bresnan found van Wyk's inside-edge which crashed into the stumps. Then it was over to Broad who trapped Steyn lbw with his first ball and Morkel had clearly decided to try and finish the game quickly when he got the final edge.

Despite being another thrilling match, this again was in a different light to the India, Ireland or Dutch game in its dimension and direction in which the game flowed. South Africa and Smith again will be wearing a chockers tag for the remaining group matches which they should pass unchecked. And England will now have to deal with a KP exit which leaves that not just short an opener, but also a spare spinner. England have sparked a final World Cup flame and keep the dream alive, and if anything have proven that anything is possible not only for them, but for the remainder of this tournament.

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