England and South Africa will hope lady luck does not desert them when they clash in the Champions Trophy semifinal at the Oval in London on Wednesday.
Wednesday 19 June @ 10:45 – Live on SuperSport 2
SAPA – AFP
Both sides, aiming to end a frustrating wait for a major one-day title, are fortunate to make the last four in the eight-nation tournament, saved either by the weather or their rivals’ bad luck.
South Africa sneaked a tie – and gain a valuable point – at Cardiff last week when rain forced the game to end with the West Indies on the exact Duckworth-Lewis par score of 190-6 in 26.1overs.
If Keiron Pollard had not been dismissed off what turned out to be the last ball of the match, the West Indies would have won the game and qualified for the semifinals after being ahead of the D/L target at that stage.
England were lucky the weather favoured them in Cardiff on Sunday as the hosts squeezed out a 10-run win over New Zealand in a game reduced to 24-overs-a-side due to rain.
A washed-out match or a defeat would almost certainly have knocked England out of the race and lifted the Black Caps into the semi-finals along with either Sri Lanka or Australia.
Eventually, England topped group A by virtue of a superior net run-rate over Sri Lanka, who drew level on four points following a 20-run win over defending champions Australia at the Oval on Monday.
Last year, England and South Africa drew a one-day series 2-2 after the Proteas came back from a 2-1 deficit to win the final game at Nottingham by seven wickets.
South African captain AB de Villiers said he expected another close contest between two “world-class” sides.
“England will be the favourites because they are playing at home and know the conditions well,” de Villers said on Tuesday. “But I think it is pretty much 50-50.
“It’s up to the team which rocks up with the right attitude that can take that momentum early on and run with it. We’ll be looking to do exactly that and adapt to conditions as quickly as possible.
“England are a world class team and so are we. It’s going to be a great game.”
The South African captain said the only way his team can get rid of the label of ‘chokers’ was to win the tournament.
“I believe all teams choke in certain situations,” he said. “It’s just that somehow we managed to get that tag behind our names. Unless we win this tournament, people will continue to say we are chokers. But it is not something that bothers us.”
De Villers said premier fast bowler Dale Steyn, who missed two of the three games due to a side strain, was “close to 100 percent” fit, but insisted his team can win even without him.
England skipper Alastair Cook said his team was excited about playing in a major semi-final.
“It’s such an exciting place for a player to be,” he said. “We have come here to try and win the tournament. We have got an amazing opportunity to try and do that and both sides will be excited about that.
“It’s another day tomorrow. It’s another game. What’s gone on in the past has no relevance.”
Group B winners India and Sri Lanka meet in the second semi-final in Cardiff on Thursday in a repeat of the 2011 World Cup final in Mumbai which the Indians won.
Watch out for…
England’s lower middle-order has generally failed to live up to its billing in this tournament, a couple of Ravi Bopara cameos aside. While Cook, Ian Bell and Trott have been assiduously accumulating – and are accordingly England’s three leading scorers – Morgan and Jos Buttler have 51 runs, from 50 balls, between them. Cook has hit twice as many sixes (2) as both put together. The bang-to-buck ratio has been kept respectable by Bopara’s death hitting but another failure to launch could be costly.
Much may rest on Steyn individually but it is South Africa’s bowlers as a group that will be under the microscope. The injured Morkel aside, they went missing against India, before a much-improved display gave them an all-important win over Pakistan. Steyn was the difference against West Indies but, on another night, Ryan McLaren’s three overs for 34 might have sent South Africa out of the competition. Bowling to England’s more orthodox batsmen could mitigate against similar trauma.
England (probable): 1 Alastair Cook (Captain), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Ravi Bopara, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 James Tredwell, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn
Cook said that Swann’s calf problem means he won’t be risked unless 100%, as England keep an eye on challenges ahead. Tim Bresnan didn’t train at The Oval on Tuesday, having left to visit his pregnant wife, now a couple of weeks overdue. He is likely to be replaced in the XI by Steven Finn, who has risen to No. 2 in the ODI bowler rankings despite having yet to feature in the tournament.
South Africa (probable): 1 Colin Ingram, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 AB de Villiers (Captain, wk), 4 JP Duminy, 5 Faf du Plessis, 6 David Miller, 7 Ryan McLaren 8 Robin Peterson 9 Chris Morris, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Steyn has a “good chance” of being fit, according to de Villiers, despite a groin problem that has superseded his previous side strain. Rory Kleinveldt or Aaron Phangiso are the likely back-up options, depending on the pitch, while Farhaan Behardien could be brought in to strengthen the batting, giving JP Duminy’s offspin more of a role. South Africa have used three different No. 3s in the tournament so far and further experimentation can’t be ruled out.
Pitch and conditions:
The Oval has tended to be a touch quicker than the other two venues, though after ten days of cricket a wearing pitch should encourage spin. Some overnight rain is expected to clear in time for the start and there might even be a few rays of sunshine over Kennington during the afternoon.
Stats and trivia:
- This will be South Africa’s first trip to London in this tournament. They have lost their last four ODIs at The Oval, including against West Indies during the 2004 Champions Trophy.
- AB de Villiers needs 36 runs to overtake Hansie Cronje as South Africa’s sixth-most prolific ODI batsman.
- Stuart Broad has taken 21 wickets at 15.61 against South Africa, his best average against any side in one-dayers.