South Africa vs England (Champions Trophy)

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Excellent England win again despite Smith heroics

eoin morganDespite a monumental effort from Graeme Smith, England secured a surprise semi-final berth yesterday after defeating hosts South Africa in their Group B clash by 22 runs at Centurion. After Andrew Strauss yet again won the toss, England romped to an imposing 323/8 with Owais Shah, Paul Collingwood and Eoin Morgan all playing terrific innings’. Although the result was not certain for most of their chase, South Africa always looked like they would fall short and when Smith fell in the 47th over for 141 with 50 still needed, the host’s exit from their own tournament was all but confirmed.

England, unrecognisable from the side humiliated 6-1 in the Nat West series against Australia, now look like a team full of confidence and positive intent – an incredible twelve sixes were hit by the men in blue yesterday. Out of form batsmen like Shah and Collingwood (who would criticise the three match break he took in the Nat West series now?) have come roaring back to their best. Furthermore, in Morgan, England seem to have stumbled on a multi-faceted batsman – one who can take advantage of the crucial Powerplay overs and one who can also finish. His 67 yesterday off only 34 balls was a phenomenal innings. In the field, England looked sharp for the most part and James Anderson, also benefiting from a break during the Nat West series, looked back to his best in taking 3/42.

For South Africa it is yet another disappointment in a major tournament. They were the form team in the World T20 in June before surprisingly going out to Pakistan in the semi-finals and this exit brings back bad memories of the 2003 World Cup, when as hosts they were again knocked out in the first round. So still that accusation of chokers will be thrown at them. On this occasion that would be unfair as the two main reasons they have been knocked out this time is firstly because they came up against some inspired batting in the defeats to Sri Lanka and now England, and secondly; they came into the tournament undercooked having not played a competitive match for three months.

Strauss, whose ability to win crucial tosses is almost as impressive as his batting at the moment, had no hesitation in batting first on a belting Centurion wicket, and in tandem with Joe Denly gave the innings a brisk start with eight boundaries in the first nine overs. They both then fell in quick succession – Denly (21) picking out JP Duminy in the deep off Jacques Kallis, and Strauss (25) falling again to an excellent catch by Boucher off Parnell. During the Nat West series this would have been the cue for England to subside into introspection, a poor total and ultimately defeat. However, just as on Friday, this proved not to be the case.

Shah and Collingwood, both of whom regained some semblance of form in the win against Sri Lanka on Friday, put together a brilliant partnership of 163 at over a run a ball, with the former unrecognisable from the hesitant and nervous Shah we saw against Australia. His 98 came from only 89 balls and he hit six sixes, five of them in only 11 balls, as he accelerated to what would have been his second ODI ton. Collingwood, who yet again had been written off by many critics, was no mere support act although his innings of 82 off 94 balls was not as explosive as Shah’s or Morgan’s. Shah missed out on a deserved ton when he was caught by Boucher off Botha from an inside edge onto his pad.

This brought in Morgan, who impressed in the finishing role during the surprise win over Sri Lanka on Friday. This innings was very different and even more brilliant as Morgan added the gloss to what was already set to be an imposing total. First he scored the lion’s share of a 40 run partnership with Collingwood, who was bowled by Parnell. Then despite Luke Wright, Ravi Bopara (in for the ill Matt Prior – Morgan wore the gloves) and Stuart Broad all falling cheaply, Morgan pressed his foot even more firmly on the accelerator reaching his 50 off only 26 balls. When he eventually fell in the final over to an excellent low catch by Smith, his job was well and truly done. Suddenly with Kevin Pietersen to come back in, England have the makings of a very good ODI batting line-up – what a long time a week can be and not just in politics!

The job was not done however, and with Herschelle Gibbs returning from injury at the expense of Hashim Amla, the South African line-up had a formidable look about it especially with the redoubtable Smith at the helm. Gibbs and Smith were going along at six an over before Gibbs (22) lobbed a catch to Wright at mid on off Anderson at the end of the seventh over with the score on 42. Kallis came and went quickly – caught in the deep by Denly off Broad for 12. In came AB De Villiers fresh from his fifty against New Zealand and together with Smith built a significant partnership that kept his team well in the game. At this point it looked like Collingwood’s drop of De Villiers when he was only on 3 could prove extremely costly. Luckily for the Durham man he managed to induce De Villiers (36) to hit down the throat of Denly at mid-wicket with 182 still needed from just under 25 overs.

Duminy was next in and with Smith looking ominously determined, South Africa were still in the hunt. English nerves were compounded with Smith surviving two scares before he reached his century – a missed stumping by Morgan and a dropped catch by Shah at mid on off one of Collingwood’s effective cutters. These let offs enable Smith to continue on to his 100 (off only 104 balls), which he achieved with a boundary past point. One over later and the pendulum swung back England’s way when Graeme Swann took out Duminy’s leg stump. The dangerous Mark Boucher was next to go, bowled by the excellent Anderson at the start of his final spell.

This brought in Albie Morkel and signalled the start of the batting powerplay with 86 required from the remaining 48 balls. Ultimately, this proved too tall an order even for Morkel, who after hitting Broad for ten from two balls, was run out by Morgan attempting a suicidal bye. Incidentally, Strauss had refused a cramp stricken Smith a runner and later argued that he wasn’t prepared to give any advantage to a tired player – a hard but fair call. The wickets now fell quickly with Botha and then van der Merwe, who disappointed this time with the ball after his good performance against the Kiwis, both falling for ducks to Anderson and Broad respectively. Then Smith’s heroic innings came to an end when he top-edged Broad to Shah at mid-on. He rightfully got a standing ovation from the whole crowd.

Dale Steyn and Parnell saw through the remaining overs but to no avail and England had won by 22 runs. For South Africa, it is another inquest into another disappointing performance in a tournament, whilst England move on to their final group game against New Zealand tomorrow safe in the knowledge that they are already in the semi-finals.

Match 8: Group B – Centurion England 323/8 (50 overs) Shah 98, Collingwood 82, Morgan 67, Parnell 3/60 beat South Africa 301/9 (50 overs) Smith 141, Anderson 3/42, Broad 3/67 by 22 runs

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