SA vs England in Champs Trophy semis

18 June 2013

South Africa secured a place in the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy after a tie with the West Indies on Friday in Cardiff on the Duckworth/Lewis Method. The Proteas’ better net run rate saw them finish second ahead of the islanders in Group B.

After a string of disappointments in major tournaments over the years, cricket’s fortunes favoured the Proteas as they advanced to a semi-finals showdown with England after a wicket off of what turned out to be the last ball of the match pulled them level with the West Indians.

India, the winners of Group B, will face Sri Lanka in the other final four match.

‘It feels great’

It was more a case of relief than triumph for the Proteas in Cardiff. “It feels great. We’ve been on the wrong side of these kinds of matches in the past quite a few times and I have been part of a few teams that’ve been on the wrong side,” South African captain AB de Villiers said at the post-match press conference.

“What makes me more happy is that I thought we played really good cricket most of the game today.”

Up against a team that includes some of the most devastating strikers in the shorter forms of the game, including Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, De Villiers turned to fast bowler Dale Steyn, back in the team after missing their first two matches with injury, to blunt the West Indians’ big hitting. Steyn responded well and played a major role in denying the islanders victory.

“He is definitely an X-factor for us,” De Villiers reckoned. “I called on him a few times today, especially the last spell into the wind and he picked up a wicket.

“He handled the pressure well and the way he gave his best for the team was very inspiring.”

The premier fast bowler of his generation

Having Steyn back is a huge plus for the Proteas ahead of their showdown with England on Wednesday at The Oval. The cricketing world is pretty much united in its belief that he is the premier fast bowler of his generation.

South Africa, though, are without Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Morne Morkel and they deserve praise for their fortitude in performing well without the three world class players. It is doubtful any other team, if they had three players of such proven quality, would have performed as well as the Proteas have.

In the absence of Smith and Kallis, De Villiers has been more than happy with his team’s batting. “I don’t think our batting can get much better than it is now,” he told the media in Cardiff.

‘A lot of strength in our batting’

“We know there is a lot of strength in our batting line-up and I am looking forward to seeing that come through in the next knockout games.”

Colin Ingram and David Miller, who have in the past been more on the fringes of than in the team, have both so far played their part in helping South Africa reach the semi-finals. Ingram was man of the match in the win over the West Indies, with 73 off only 63 balls at the top of the innings, while Miller weighed in with 38 off 29 deliveries. His innings included three sixes.

In the absence of Kallis, Ryan McLaren has done a fine job as an all-rounder. His outputs include an unbeaten 71 against India and a haul of 4 for 19 against Pakistan. JP Duminy has also delivered in the all-rounder’s role, mostly by keeping the opposition’s run rate down with his off-spin bowling.

Established stars

However, for South Africa to progress to the final and win the title, established stars Hashim Amla and captain De Villiers will need to shine.

Amla struck 81 off 97 deliveries against Pakistan, weighed in 23 off 27 against the West Indies and 22 off 15 against India, but will no doubt be looking for more in the Proteas’ remaining matches.

De Villiers has looked in excellent form, but would surely like to push on from the good results he so far produced: 68 off 72 balls against India, 31 off 31 versus Pakistan, and 37 off 26 against the West Indies.

Bottom line

The bottom line, though, is that cricket is a team game and it will take a team effort to win.

Just two victories stand between the Proteas and their first major ICC trophy victory in 15 years. The last (and only) one happened in 1998 in the very first Champions Trophy.

On that occasion Gary Kirsten was a member of the winning side and it would be a fitting way to see him off in his last duty as a very successful coach of the Proteas.

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