Cruising to the Semi’s

In front of the biggest and noisiest crowd of the Caribbean World Cup South Africa booked their place in the semi finals courtesy of a sound thrashing of England. England, who needed to beat South Africa to pip them to the final semi final birth, now play a dead rubber against the hosts, the West Indies, in the final Super 8 game on Saturday. Winning the toss Micheal Vaughn, the England captain, asked South Africa to bowl first, hoping to get a score on the board, and the pressure of having to win or fail to progress, would tell and the South Africans would fail to reach the target. Things didn’t go according to plan from that moment on. South Africa, who surprised many by leaving Ntini out of the one match where conditions finally suited him, hit all the right marks from the beginning. Pollock and new opening partner, Langeveld, bowled 14 dot balls before the English total got off the mark. The tight bowling continued throughout the entire innings, helped by good fielding, and outstanding captaincy by Smith, who’s every move seemed to bare fruit this afternoon. Pollock was back to his miserly self, finishing with only 17 runs taken off him in his 10 overs. It was the strangle by Pollock that allowed the likes of Nel and Langeveld to make the early strikes. Nel finished with 3/35, including the prized wicket of Pieterson, caught brilliantly by Smith, and celebrated with great excitement by the entire team. It was the bowling of Andrew Hall that really took the game away from England. A score of 200 was still possible and may have proved challenging, but Hall put an end to any such thoughts with a superb spell in the middle and at the end. Getting the ball to swing and reverse Hall ripped through the middle order of the English lineup, finishing with the superb figures of 5/18 off 10 overs, the best bowling by a South African in a world cup, the previous best being 5/22 by Lance Klusner against Kenya. England’s innings ended in the 48th over on 154. While the English openers where circumspect and cautious, the South Africans took the game away from England from the first two overs. Smith and de Villiers batted with aggression and flair in smashing their way towards the modest total. by the time de Villiers was out, for 42 from 35 balls, the game was effectively over. Smith was joined by Kallis, who was happy to just push the ball around and allow his captain to finish the match off. Smith led from the front throughout the game, with his field placings, bowling changes and two catches, during the England innings, and with his aggressive batting during the South African innings. Not allowing any of the bowlers to settle, Smith attacked the bowling, intent to finish the match off as quickly as possible. When the end came he was 89 not out from just 58 balls, and the 20th over had not yet been bowled. This was South Africa’s most impressive and clinical performance of the world cup, both in the manner of their victory, and also the occasion, needing to win to progress to the semi finals. On this performance South Africa may be peeking at just the right time and will fancy their chances against anyone – even Australia.

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