Twice World Cup finalists, England fought back brilliantly from a precarious condition, especially after their stunning defeat at the hands of ‘minnows’ Ireland, to defeat formidable South Africa, in a nail-biting encounter.
When everyone given up hopes, including their own media back home, after their humiliating defeat at the hands of Ireland, and prior to that failed to snatch a victory over India, however fought back well against Proteas. England after being bundled out for 171 by South Africa, in fact, snatched a dramatic six-run victory in their crucial Group B fixture here Sunday at Chennai. Thus they keep their hopes alive in the cricket World Cup prospects.
The South Africans, who were cruising well at 63 for no loss at one stage, suffered a middle-order collapse and were eventually all out for 165 in 47.4 overs. Fast bowler Stuart Broad (4-15) gave England hope, dismissing Hashim Amla and veteran Jacques Kallis, reducing South Africa to 82/3. Ab de Villiers (25), with back-to-back centuries in this edition World Cup, and Francois du Plessis could only put on 42 runs to ensure South Africa looked safe.
But seamer James Anderson (2-16) changed the course of the match with two beatiful swinging deliveries to rattle the stumps of de Villiers and Jean Paul Duminy. In between Du Plessis was run out. All three wickets fell at 124 and England roared back into the match.
In their chase, the Proteas never looked convincing in spite of a rearguard fight by wicketkeeper Morne van Wyk (13) and tail-ender Dale Steyn (20), who added 33 runs for the eighth wicket. They too eventually stumbled at the finish.
England, reeling under a huge loss against Ireland in Bangalore, won their second match in four outings and took their tally to five. They now travel to Chittagong to face Bangladesh (March 11) before returning to Chennai for their concluding league fixture against the West Indies March 17.
It was South Africa’s first loss, having comfortably won their previous two games against the West Indies and the Netherlands.
England chose to bat first, but they lost three quick wickets with Graeme Smith again playing his spin card. They were done in by left-arm spinner Robin Peterson (3 for 22) who opened the bowling and leg-spinner Imran Tahir (4 for 38), as they collapsed to 171 in 45.4 overs.
That England managed to score that many after losing three wickets by the fifth over was thanks to a 99-run dogged partnership for the fourth wicket between Jonathan Trott (52, 94b, 3×4) and Ravi Bopara (60, 98b, 1×6, 3×4) who was brought in for Paul Collingwood.
Contrary to that, the South African chase began on a strong note with openers Graeme Smith (22) and Amla (42) putting on 63 at a good clip, but England hit back by snapping up three wickets to get a toe hold in the game.
Skipper Smith was caught behind off Graeme Swann, a dismissal that was confirmed only after a review, and then Broad struck twice in eight deliveries, removing Amla and Jacques Kallis. In-form De Villiers and Du Plessis steadied the innings, but in a dramatic turn of events, England grabbed three wickets for no runs in the space of 11 balls as South Africa slid to 124 for six. De Villiers, struggling with a back problem, was bowled by Anderson and then du Plessis was a victim of short-leg Ian Bell’s quick reaction to be caught short of the crease. New man Jean Paul Duminy lasted four deliveries during which he successfully had a caught behind decision reviewed and two balls later, Anderson uprooted his off-stump.
England, sensing a kill, went on the offensive but van Wyk and Steyn scrapped as hard to bring South Africa within sight of victory. However, in another twist to the proceedings, Steyn fell leg before to Broad who went on to induce a nick from Morne Morkel to end the South African chase.
First up, it was Peterson who did all the damage with his three-wicket haul, including two in his very first over with the new ball, a move that seemed to catch England off-guard. Peterson dismissed skipper Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen and that had England on the ropes. Thereafter, it was a classic hand-to-hand battle in the trenches.
Peterson’s three wickets in his first spell of four overs that cost only four runs proved to be a huge setback for England, who never quite recovered from the early blows, a couple of them self-inflicted. The South Africans could have made further inroads with some luck as Trott and Bopara got away with a few streaky shots and edges that either fell short or went to vacant spots.
However, both hung on to rebuild the innings. It was a laboured effort that fetched them runs mostly in trickles interspersed with a burst of action, including Bopara’s six off part-time spinner Duminy.
Smith wrung in swift bowling changes to break the Trott-Bopara partnership that eventually ended when Tahir snared Trott, who had just then completed his second consecutive half-century following the 92 against Irealand last week.
Morkel then delivered two quick blows to remove Bopara and Matt Prior while Tahir ended the England innings with a three-wicket haul in his fourth spell.