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Rediff.com  » Cricket » England look to target untested SA middle order

England look to target untested SA middle order

Last updated on: March 5, 2011 23:26 IST

The scheduling has not been in England's favour

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Krishnakumar Padmanabhan in Chennai

Whatever their other shortcomings, nobody can deny that England have provided most of the thrills in this World Cup so far.

They got the better of Ryan ten Doeschate's Netherlands in a classic tight finish, then there was the tie against India, and then that loss to Ireland. They have tasted all three possible results in their first three matches.

The sheer exhaustion from this string of matches is not the only thing that this England side needs to handle as they face traditional rivals South Africa in Chennai. For them, exhaustion goes back to the time they won the Ashes in Australia for the first time in 24 years.

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That euphoria was short-lived as the Australians quickly turned around to slam them 6-1 in the one-day series. Following their Australia tour, this English team (Nine of the 15 member squad were part of that Ashes winning team) had just three days at home before they set off for the World Cup.

And the scheduling has not been in their favour either.


Image: England cricket team
Photographs: Getty Images
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'We have belief in ourselves'

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It is in this light that they take on South Africa, and captain Andrew Strauss is keen to put the last three matches behind him and make the most of the three matches ahead of the team.

- Ireland gave us a good wake-up call: Trott

"I think a great thing about this tournament, is that you can quickly make up for defeats. But the format of this World Cup means that you have to put those defeats behind you and move on quickly," Strauss said ahead of Sunday's Group B encounter against South Africa in Chennai.

"You need to have belief in yourself. We have that and we have beaten South Africa before, the West Indies before and Bangladesh before.

He said the team is first focused on the South Africa match to regain the momentum that they lost in the match against Ireland.


Image: England's captain Andrew Strauss (left) wih teammate Ravi Bopara at a nets session in Chennai on Saturday
Photographs: Reuters
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'There are a few niggles in the side'

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"Most of the focus has been on South Africa, this wicket and this match," he said.

"We are very excited about this game. And it is more familiar territory for us against South Africa and we intend to come out and play good cricket. Hopefully, South Africa will treat us lightly and if they do that, we have a chance of winning the game."

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But the main roadblock for England's ambition to bounce back will be the injuries three of their frontline players -- Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Paul Collingwood -- are carrying.

"To be fair, there are a few niggles in the side. But we are hopeful that we have a full 15 to pick from for tomorrow. Paulie (Collingwood) is one player who has got a few issues in a little bit of trouble. But there is nothing unusual and he should be fit."


Image: Kevin Pietersen
Photographs: Reuters
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'There is still an opportunity to win the WC'

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However as much as England may want to put the defeat against the Irish, there are issues and lessons to be learnt from that match.

"If you field and bowl poorly, you can't win a game of cricket," he said.

He said some of the England bowlers were coming back from injuries and it has been tough for them.

"Some of the guys have had a bit of an injury lay off. But none of them is happy with the form they have shown," he said.

But they are eager to turn it around and "there is still an opportunity to win the World Cup" he said.

"We have had a chat about it. Talked about how we can make things better this time," he said.


Image: England's Kevin Pietersen (left) talks with teammates Ian Bell (2nd from left) and Matt Prior
Photographs: Reuters
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'Lots of things happen in Powerplay'

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Asked if he timed the batting Powerplay against India wrongly, he said the problem was that England lost 4 wickets and scored only 25 runs in that Powerplay, and not its timing.

"You have got to take the batting Powerplay at some stage," Strauss said.

"When you are chasing, it is there in front of you. You know how many you need in how many overs and you can use the batting Powerplay to get the run rate down to manageable levels. So against India, the timing, for me, was not the issue, but losing four wickets for 25, that's just not good. But the great thing about the Powerplay is that it does make things happen. You either take a lot of wickets or score a lot of runs."


Image: England's coach Andy Flower during a training session
Photographs: Reuters
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'If we bowl to our plans we will have a good chance'

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Regarding the South Africa match, Strauss thinks, England have a couple of positives to look forward to. One of them is that these two sides have set up a great rivalry in recent times and know each other well.

"If we bowl to our plans against them, we will have a good chance," he said.

"We know them well. There are no surprise packages. But we are not entirely sure how this pitch is going to play. We are not sure how much the spinners are going to come into play. But there is going to be something for some of the bowlers at some point of the game."


Image: England's James Anderson takes a catch during a practice session
Photographs: Reuters
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'Tahir is a less problem for us'

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Another factor is that Lahore-born South African leg spinner Imran Tahir will not be as much of a mystery factor for them as he would be to other teams.

"When he came to England, he started with Middlesex," Strauss said.

"I have played a few games with him and a fair amount of time against him too. We know what he brings to the party, but as leg spinners do, he will ask a lot of questions, though he is probably less a problem for us, than other sides.

And the third factor that Strauss hopes to exploit is South Africa's lower middle order, which has not gotten any time in the middle so far. Neither the Netherlands nor the West Indies could take more than four South African wickets.

"I always think if a side's top order is doing well, and the middle order haven't had much time at the wicket by definition, if you can get the top order early, they (middle order) can be put under a bit of pressure. That is what we want to do tomorrow."


Image: Imran Tahir
Photographs: Getty Images
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