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Andrew Hall picked five wickets for 18 runs as South Africa routed England by nine wickets in a Super Eights match and sealed a berth in the semi-finals of the World Cup, on Tuesday.
Electing to bat, England found the pace of Hall and Andre Nel (3 for 35) too hot to negotiate and crashed to 154 all out in 48 overs. South Africa quickly rattled off the required runs, finishing on 157 in the 20th over.
Graeme Smith led the chase, scoring an unbeaten 89 off 58 balls.
I'm not sure what it says of the international cricketing schedule, when in a field of eight serious teams, you can have two - South Africa and England - go over two years without meeting each other.
The strangers finally bump into each other today at the Kensington Oval, in Bridgetown, Barbados - with a spot in the semi-final to play for.
It is a peculiar situation for the two teams to find themselves in - for vastly different reasons. England has in the Super Eights defeated only Bangladesh and Ireland thus far, slim credentials on which to base a semifinal bid.
Against that, South Africa began the group with a win over the favored Sri Lankans, and also defeated the West Indies. If it now finds itself struggling for survival, blame a shock defeat at the hands of Bangladesh, defeat, too, by New Zealand, and captain Graeme Smith's myopic ignoring of net run rates as a factor in a league format, especially in the team's win over the West Indies.
Michael Vaughan called right at the coin toss, and opted for first strike - a fair call on a true wicket. Having made the decision, and having got the additional bonus of South Africa being without Makhaya Ntini, England needed a solid start, but what we got was a strange sort of stasis.
To their credit, Shaun Pollock and Charl Langeveldt bowled an outstanding opening spell: Pollock staying full and tight on wicket to wicket lines; Langeveldt keeping it a touch short and a foot or so outside off, challenging the batsmen to take risks if they wanted runs.
Michael Vaughan - rare among ODI openers in that after 85 ODIs in the opening slot, he is yet to score a century (his average is 26.67 and his strike rate, a very poor 67.23) - showed just why so many questions are asked about his ability to lead this side.
For 20 deliveries, the England captain was run-less, even clueless. His struggles were so palpable that when he finally squirted a drive through the covers off Pollock to get off the mark with a brace, the English segment of the fans greeted it with the sort of rapture traditionally reserved for centurions.
Ian Bell wasn't making much headway at the other end, either - and his captain's batting was clearly adding to the pressure he was feeling. Having failed to pull off more conventional shots, Bell in the 8th over aimed an injudicious pull at Langeveldt - injudicious, in that he was in no position to play the shot, the ball was climbing as he got to him, and he was unable to get over it - and put it up in the air for Ashwell Prince at midwicket to take a good, low catch (7/23; 9/1). The two had managed 9 runs in 45 (Vaughan 2 in 22) deliveries - clearly, something had to give and as it happened, it was Bell's patience.
Seemingly shocked out of his stupor, Vaughan in the same over aimed a huge pull at Langeveldt and managed only a top edge over the slips. In the bowler's next over, though, he did play a superb pull, transferring weight very quickly onto the back foot and hitting with great bat speed and perfect timing; the batsman then followed up with a lovely flick-drive through wide long on.
When Andrew Strauss picked Langeveldt's length early, went back very quickly and pulled effortlessly for six in front of square leg in the 12th over, it looked as if England had shaken off those early nerves and were ready to repair.
Not. Graeme Smith brought Andre Nel on in the 13th and the bowler struck with his first delivery. It was full, quick, angled in on off and middle and straightening; Vaughan appeared to fall away to off as he tried to play around his pads, missed, and was nailed on the pad (17/38; 37/2).
Cricket writers love to ignore the fact that cricket is a team game, and set it up as a gladiatorial, kill or be killed contest between various high profile players - and nothing plays into that storyline quite as well as Kevin Pietersen versus South Africa.
The batsman, who left his native South Africa alleging discrimination, had famously announced himself on the world stage during England's last tour of that country (also the last time the two sides met), and had captured the imagination with three blistering centuries and a fifty, while around him the rest of England's finest collapsed in a 4-1 defeat.
This World Cup hasn't seen him quite at his best, especially in the department of rapid run-scoring. Prior to the tournament, he was being named as the batsman who would tear this competition open - a storyline enhanced by his being named the best ODI player currently - but in the Caribbean, `KP' has been striking in the mid 70s, way below his career rate of 90-plus.
England would happily have taken a KP century, even at 70 rpo, on the day - but the batsman was clearly overwhelmed by both occasion and expectations. He was greeted with a bouncer, a glare, and one of Nel's trademark smiles-that-chill; another lifter later in the over saw him beaten on the pull and hit on the body. During his brief stay, he was clearly unable to get his timing going, and Nel took him out in the 17th over, with a slightly slower delivery angling in on his pads, that Pietersen tried to whip off his pads, got the leading edge, and watched Smith, at mid off, dive a long way forward to hold (3/15; 53/3).
Nel, by now bowling in one of his moods, caught the splice of Paul Collingwood's bat early on with a vicious lifter, only to watch the ball just eluding a second slip rising into the air like a rocket; South Africa also had a couple of run out chances they missed against Strauss.
There has been much criticism - mostly justified -- of South Africa's monochromatic bowling attack. But when things are going good for it, the steady diet of pace and bounce works very well. As it did here, with Andrew Hall - back, signaling the end of South Africa's flirtation with spin in the form of Peterson - taking over after the power plays, and producing unexpected lift off length, around the off stump, to tie Collingwood up.
At the halfway stage, South Africa has made all the running - in the power plays period, the Proteas kept the run scoring down to 3.20 per over, while knocking over three top batsmen including Pietersen. For England to have a chance in this game, it needs 250, at a minimum, on the board - and to get there, it needs Strauss (who has been batting fluently from the moment he walked in, without quite managing to impose himself on the proceedings) and Collingwood to build on the current stand.
Equally importantly, it needs Freddy Flintoff - who thus far this Cup has distinguished himself only by getting drunk, nearly getting drowned, and getting dumped from the vice captaincy - to step up, big time. If these three players can deliver, then with the likes of the composed Ravi Bopara and the energetic Paul Nixon at the death, they just might get where they want to be.
5 overs: 5/0 @ 1.00 (Vaughan 0/16; Bell 5/14)
10 overs: 28/1 @ 2.80 (Vaughan 16/34; Strauss 4/4)
15 overs: 47/2 @ 3.13 (Pietersen 2/9; Strauss 19/21)
20 overs: 64/3 @ 3.20 (Strauss 28/34; Collingwood 6/12)
25 overs: 89/3 @ 3.56 (Strauss 38/46; Collingwood 15/30).
Over 26 - 40
Martin Johnson once famously - and on that occasion, erroneously - said there were only three things wrong with the England cricket team: they couldn't bat, they couldn't bowl, and they couldn't field.
If he were regularly reporting on this World Cup campaign, he might be tempted to revise that opinion, and say there are only two things wrong with England, at least in the one day format: It doesn't know how to start an innings, and it sure as hell doesn't know how to finish one.
Graeme Smith - who Kevin Pietersen slightingly referred to in his autobiography as a `muppet' - ramped up his captaincy in the must-win game and on the day, seemingly couldn't put a foot wrong.
Through the 20-30 over period, he used his bowlers, particularly Kallis and Kemp, to choke the England batsmen; with just 104 on the board at the end of 30 overs, the innings was truly becalmed.
Having created pressure, he then began using it to knock the batsmen over. Strauss, who looked in touch but never quite managed to indicate he would dominate, was first. Smith, noticing the batsman's penchant to go hard outside his off stump, swung wide in the slips, taking position somewhere between where a third or fourth slip would be; Strauss went hard at Kallis anyway, and cut it straight into Smith's midriff (46/67; 111/4).
In the very next over, Andrew Hall - again, good captaincy, bringing the reverse swing expert back at the first hint that the ball was ready to go Irish - made the ball come in late, and Collingwood's hazy push couldn't keep the ball out of his pads (30/57).
Andrew Flintoff, yet again, walked out, spent a few minutes out in the middle with all the air of one who was in a middle of a hangover and wondering where he was and what he was doing (No suggestion here, mind, that he has been on the sauce again), and Hall put him out of his misery with a delivery that hit the deck around off, seamed in, went right through a very vague drive aimed by the right hander, and hit the top of middle stump (5/14; 119/6).
Paul Nixon came out, fished at a Hall delivery later in that same over that was angled across him, and touched it through for a regulation take by Boucher behind the wicket (1/2; 121/7).
At that point, England in the space of 21 deliveries had lost four wickets for 10 runs - and the wheels had come completely off its game plan. If the point behind the careful batting of Collingwood and Strauss was to preserve wickets for a big push at the end, then the end was here, and there were no wickets left to push with - not the first time England has played cautiously at the start, only to muck up at the end.
Hall - who by then was bowling with the disbelieving smile of someone waking up to how easy cricket actually is - then took out Sajid Mahmood with the first ball of his next over. This was again the ball coming in, this time from outside off. Mahmood pushed, the ball took the inside edge, and cannoned onto the stumps (0/1; 121/8). The wicket put him in line for a hat-trick, but Monty Panesar managed to avoid that ignominy.
Hall had gone 8-2-16-4 and was striking once every over; Smith, inexplicably, took him out of the attack and brought on Charl Langeveldt - the one false note the South African captain struck, and it cost the team 10 runs, with Ravi Bopara, who seems increasingly to be batting a place, even two, below where he deserves to be, greeting the change with a superb drive on the rise through mid off; then moving inside the line and flicking to fine leg, and ending the over with a brace, to have 134 on the board at the end of 40.
16 balls, 8 runs, three wickets
30 overs: 104/3 @ 3.46 (Strauss 43/58; Collingwood 25/48)
35 overs: 119/5 @ 3.40 (Bopara 1/3; Flintoff 5/9)
40 overs: 134/8 @ 3.35 (Bopara 12/19; Panesar 1/11)
The Proteas encountered some unexpected resistance in the unlikely form of Monty Panesar, who played the likes of Shaun Pollock with an ease that mocked the earlier batsmen.
With the southpaw getting nicely behind the line to everything thrown at him, Bopara had some breathing space to try and bat through. Panesar though undid all his good work when, facing Nel in the 45th over, he backed away and flashed at a delivery going harmlessly past him outside off, and got the thick edge to Boucher - a wasteful way to end a watchful 28 ball knock (2/28; 144/9).
Unable to take singles, Bopara kept hitting the ball around, shaking his head at his partner, and letting the overs tick by while collecting a useful brace here, a four with a back foot punch, on the rise off Nel, there; the runs he bailed out of in order to shield his partner could very nearly have doubled his score.
He thought it was safe enough to take a wicket off the fifth ball of the 48th, leaving James Anderson just one ball to face. But one ball was all Hall needed - a late reversing delivery that nailed the batsman on the boot in front of leg and middle, to give him his first five-for in ODIs while leaving Bopara stuck on 27/44, with two overs still to go.
England's scorecard says all there is to say about its performance, and its prospects. South Africa's dominance in the first half of this game was constructed around three bowlers: Shaun Pollock, who applied enormous pressure at the start with a spell of 6-2-8-0; Andre Nel, who came on as first change to rock England in a fierce burst that knocked out Vaughan and, crucially, Pietersen; and Andrew Ball, whose spell of 8-2-16-4 heading into the death pretty much nailed England to the mast.
There is pace and bounce on this track, but not inordinately so - the long Proteas batting lineup should have very little trouble chasing this score down to seal its place in the semis.
45 overs: 144/9 @ 3.20 (Bopara 20/29; Anderson 0/3)
South Africa innings
The story of the South African chase is easily told: England lost its first wicket, that of Ian Bell, in the 8th over. At the end of that over, England's score was 15/1. South Africa in contrast, at the end of 8 overs, was 71/0.
AB de Villiers and Graeme Smith came out intent on stamping themselves on the scene, and cut loose from the first ball. Some of the shots were pretty - Smith in the V, de Villiers on the off drive and with some sensational short arm pulls to balls that were not all that short in length.
And some of the shots were ugly - Smith edging over the slips, de Villiers ditto, Smith top edging Panesar over the keeper's head.
But the shots - pretty, ugly and everything in between - kept coming in a murderous cascade. Anderson gave 26 in four and disappeared from the crease; the attacking Sajid Mahmood was plundered for 28 in two, and hastily removed; Flintoff went for 13 in his first two and Michael Vaughan, in a desperate ploy, was forced to turn to Monty Panesar as early as the 9th over (Smith swept him, de Villiers cut him, Panesar 1-0-9-0).
When de Villiers slashed at a Flintoff delivery outside his off stump and edged behind to Nixon, it hardly registered on the radar (42/35; 85/1) - Smith accelerated even more, first cutting, then lofting Panesar straight, while Kallis rammed him down to third man for a third four, to total 15 runs in the 11th over.
There was precious little Vaughan could do - the asking rate, after 10 overs, was under two runs an over, ruling out any possibility of defense, or even of checking the run rate to earn a bit of breathing space. So he kept the field up, put fielders in catching positions, and stood there hoping for the best.
What he got was the worst - Sajid Mahmood comically escorting one ball to the third man boundary; Kevin Pietersen deciding it was too much bother to dive to stop a Smith flick at the wide midwicket fence.
Somewhere in there, Smith brought up his 50 off 34 deliveries, of which only 9 went un-scored off. And speaking of things not scored off, Flintoff managed in the 15th over to give away just one; the cheapest over in the innings till that point where the South Africans had three maidens in the first five overs alone. Or, looked at another way, only one over in the England innings (the 40th) produced ten runs or more; against that, five overs in the first 15 of the Proteas chase went for ten or over.
The brutality was best exemplified by Smith in the 17th over. Flintoff in, and Smith cracked one so hard it nearly took Kallis' head off as it rocketed past the stumps. The next ball nearly took Flintoff's head off, as Smith changed the angle of the bat a touch and creamed it straight, on the other side of the stumps. The third ball saw him take a splay-footed stance, like a baseball hitter, and crack over mid off for yet another four - each shot hit with ferocious intent and brute power.
In the next over, Smith was caught behind, first ball, off a Sajid Mahmood no ball. The next one saw him in baseball mould again, smacking a short one over midwicket. Oh never mind - long story short, it was about as subtle as an angry elephant in a bamboo forest, and just as devastating.
South Africa knocked off the target in the 20th over, with nine wickets, to seal their place in the semifinals and put England out of the World Cup (SA 157/1 in 19.2 overs; Smith 85/57; Kallis 14/24).
It was in February 2005 that South Africa trashed England 4-1 at home despite Pietersen's debut heroics; the win reversed a trend for the Proteas, who had managed just one win, against Bangladesh, in the 13 ODI games preceding that series.
There was, about the way Smith smashed his way to a brutal win, an intent to make a statement - and when it came, it was emphatic, and unmistakable.
South Africa progression
5 overs: 44/0 @ 8.80 (AB de Villiers 27/16; Smith 15/14); Required rate 2.46
10 overs: 85/1 @ 8.50 (Smith 35/25; Kallis 0/1); Required rate 1.75
15 overs: 116/1 @ 7.73 (Smith 56/40; Kallis 10/16); Required rate 1.11The Cup: Complete Coverage
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