South Africa have not always played like a recent world No. 1 team during this World Cup, but at Bridgetown they were at their disciplined and incisive best, rolling England for 154 before disdainfully racing to their target in under 20 overs. Andrew Hall’s career-best 5 for 18 blew away the middle order after Andre Nel’s fire created the early breakthrough, before Graeme Smith minced England’s attack to lead South Africa’s march into the semi-finals.
There were two teams involved in this match but only one bothered to turn up. It was a virtual quarter-final, yet South Africa crushed England as though they were one of the minnows. For much of the past month they have played like it. While being dismissed on a decent surface in 48 overs was bad enough, it was the manner in which Graeme Smith flayed the bowling that finally proved what has long been expected; England were a broken team.
Smith and AB de Villiers launched South Africa to their fifty in the sixth over; it took England 16. Smith’s fifty came off 34 balls with just nine dot balls; it had earlier taken Michael Vaughan 20 deliveries to get off the mark. But it wasn’t just the bare numbers, South Africa’s intent was clear from the start.
Kevin Pietersen’s wicket, a leading edge off the fiery Andre Nel for just 3, was a huge individual moment after all the pre-match hype but it was Hall’s spell after the second drinks break that sank England. He claimed four wickets in nine balls which, alongside Jacques Kallis’s removal of Andrew Strauss created a shuddering collapse from 111 for 3 to 121 for 8. His final figures were South Africa’s best in the World Cup.
It was a masterful lesson in the art of reverse swing as he became virtually unplayable against England batsmen who were stuck on their crease. The major collapse rewarded South Africa for a near faultless performance in the field. Every bowling change worked, each field setting stymied England and the evidence of the hold they imposed was the 13 fours and single six in the innings.
The total had crept to nine in the eighth over and Ian Bell succumbed to the pressure as he pulled Charl Langeveldt to square leg. No sooner had Vaughan seemed able to up the tempo Nel struck with his second ball as the England captain played round a straight delivery.
England were 37 for 2 and suddenly the tension around the Kensington Oval rose a few levels; Pietersen entered the fray. The spectacle lasted 15 balls, Pietersen couldn’t pierce the field and spooned a catch to mid-off as he tried to loft over the leg side. Smith held the catch, a fine effort diving forward, and the whole South African team embraced. It was a wonder Nel didn’t burst a blood vessel.
As the mini-drama unfolded, another, more understated, South African was trying to hold the innings together. Strauss opened his boundary account with a sweetly struck pull for six and with Paul Collingwood, England’s crisis manager, the fifth-wicket pair had appeared to weather the worst of the storm. Their stand was worth 58 in 16 overs, while not taking the game away from South Africa it at least laid a foundation.
But it was a base made of quicksand and England were rapidly sinking. Strauss slashed to a wide slip and the door opened for Hall. Collingwood was trapped on the crease, Andrew Flintoff’s shocking form was exposed by his static feet, Paul Nixon pushed away from his body and Sajid Mahmood prodded an edge into his stumps.
South Africa don’t have a great history of securing must-win World Cup matches and the openers made it blatantly clear they didn’t want to take their time. Mahmood’s first two overs went for 28 as de Villiers brought out his full array, including one audacious whip off his hips. Even Flintoff was greeted by a clubbed on drive from Smith and the experiment with Monty Panesar lasted two expensive overs.
Flintoff kept pounding in and ended de Villiers’s 35-ball charge with an thin edge to the keeper, although by now Smith was in Twenty20 mode and anything less than four was a disappointment. England’s fielding fell to bits with Mahmood producing a feeble effort on the rope and, generally, there was the demeanour of a team who’d rather have been anywhere but Bridgetown. They’ll soon get their wish. South Africa, though, have reignited their campaign and shown they are a force to be reckoned with.
Source:Cricket WorldcupMore on:Andrew Hall, Andrew Strauss, Cricket, de Villiers, england, Graeme Smith, South Africa, World Cup
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Wednesday, April 18th, 2007 and is filed under Cricket, World Cup.
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