Proteas hold all the aces

2009-09-26 00:00

TOMORROW’s final group game for South Africa was always going to be a big one. Any match against the old enemy takes on extra significance, but the loss to Sri Lanka means the Proteas only have one option — win or bust.

The England team that takes the field will not be very high on confidence, especially after their massive series demise to the Australians.

Keeper Matt Prior has already said they have absolutely no chance of winning this tournament, hardly the rallying cry to utter before they have bowled a ball in anger. Losing six straight games to Australia, at home, only highlighted the massive void left by Kevin Pietersen.

Those who have often commented on KP’s inflated opinion of himself may now understand why he — and many others, mind — rates himself so highly.

Without him, and Andrew Flintoff to some extent, Andrew Strauss’ side has lacked imagination and even motivation at times.

Of course it was never the brightest idea to cram seven ODIs at the back end of a long summer, but that series seemed never ending as the misery piled up for the Ashes winners.

Tomorrow they face a side that is slowly finding form, and South Africa will be keen to keep the momentum going.

“It’s pretty straightforward. We just have to win,” was Graeme Smith’s jaw-clenched mission statement.

The Proteas may have Herschelle Gibbs back, and his return may give the batting a shot in the arm.

If the mercurial Gibbs does return, Hashim Amla would be a likely candidate. Despite a composed knock of 38 in Thursday’s game, Amla would likely suffer from the “last in, first out” mentality.

Either way, South Africa’s batting looks to be in encouraging touch as they head to the crunch of the campaign.

Jacques Kallis looks ready to cut loose, while AB de Villiers has already contributed a classy 70 to the cause.

The likes of JP Duminy, Mark Boucher and even Albie Morkel have yet to really fire, but South Africa’s batting looks in good health.

The fielding, so often the area where South Africa distances itself from the rest of the pack, was vastly improved on Thursday, but the Proteas still can’t seem to hit the stumps, despite numerous attempts in their two games.

The bowling was a major concern after the first game, but Smith was relieved by the display against a decent Kiwi line-up.

“We bowled great areas, and we did well as a unit. The bowlers really sealed the match for us, and it was very pleasing.”

Spinners Johan Botha and Roelof van der Merwe seem to have taken a liking to a Centurion track offering plenty of turn and some sharp bounce, and their efforts in the middle overs will again be crucial.

England’s dangermen will be Strauss who, despite apparently being not suited to the shorter formats, has been in form with several fifties against Australia in a losing cause.

Owais Shah is another threat, with his unorthodox style making it hard to set fields for him. But the void left by Pietersen seems to grow larger by the day, and it will take a major effort for England to pull this off.

Their confidence is at its lowest ebb, they are missing key players and they are playing on heavy legs.

South Africa, if they keep their nerve, should prove too good for them on the day, before the tournament starts in earnest.

SQUADS

South Africa: Graeme Smith (capt.), Johan Botha, Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, Albie Morkel, Makhaya Ntini, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Roelof van der Merwe

England: Andrew Strauss (capt.), James Anderson, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Joe Denly, Eoin Morgan, Graham Onions, Matt Prior, Adil Rashid, Owais Shah, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann, Luke Wright, Andrew Flintoff

ON TV

Play starts at 2.30 pm – live on SABC3 and SuperSport 2

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