Proteas face true test of character

2011-03-05 19:51

After impressive wins over the West Indies and Netherlands that have seen them go to the top of Group B, the Proteas face a true test of character in Chennai today (6am SA time) when they come up against England, who have been going in the other direction rather quickly.

The two victories have established South Africa as one of the World Cup favourites.

They will be under pressure, though, to justify that tag over the next week, starting with today’s crunch game.

On the other hand, England struggled to victory over the ­Netherlands, tied a match with ­India after being in a very good position to win, and then succumbed to Ireland in the biggest shock of the tournament thus far.

Another defeat today will be a disastrous outcome and their hopes of reaching the quarterfinals would then be on a knife’s edge.

While few could have predicted the embarrassment against ­Ireland, the one thing we can bet on today is that England will hit back and South Africa will need to be as clinical as they were in the hilly north-west of India when they won their opening two games.

It will be crucial for South Africa’s bowlers to hem in the ­powerful English batting line-up.

Kevin Pietersen is a brutal hitter of the ball, while Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell are exquisite stroke players who are all in excellent form.

England also have outstanding batting depth, so there really is a strong case for getting out onto the field and bowling first.

The English attack, so very impressive in the Ashes, has quickly fallen apart and no total will be safe when they are defending it.

Fast bowlers Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ajmal Shahzad will be under pressure after being put to the sword so far in the tournament.

Graeme Swann remains a very good spinner, but he is just one man against a top-class batting line-up.

A battling century against the Dutch showed that Hashim Amla is still a formidable nut to crack, while Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis are due some runs.

Then there is the simmering brilliance of AB de Villiers, who has zipped to centuries off 97 and 88 balls.

JP Duminy has done much to make up for the absence of a power hitter in the lower order, while Faf du Plessis looked good in ­going to 18 not out against the Dutch. Against such a batting line-up, England will be hard pressed to defend a total based on their current bowling form.

“I am feeling pretty relaxed – that seems to be the feeling throughout the group – but the next few games are a difficult challenge,” said captain Smith after thrashing the Dutch.

“There are two big games coming our way and it will be nice to have a bit of a run of games. If we carry on going well, then we can get our confidence on a roll.”

There can be no better time to tee it up against England.

– MWP Media

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