South Africa always start as favourites whenever they take on England. But, on Saturday, the latter side reigned supreme as they comfortably outsmarted the hosts by 39-runs at the Kensington Oval. With this win, the Englishmen headed one step closer to the semi-finals.
Yet again, Kevin Pietersen was the chief architect of the triumph. He smashed a scintillating 53 from 33 balls and also featured in a 94-run stand with Craig Kieswetter, as England put up a challenging total of 168 for 7, batting first. The bowlers then did the rest, bowling out South Africa for a measly 129, to romp home by a comfortable 39-run margin.
Spin did the trick for the bowling side as Graeme Swann picked up three crucial wickets and Michael Yardy. Ryan Sidebottom then demolished the tail in no time to cap an extremely impressive performance by England.
Pietersen, who will be returning back home to be with his wife for the birth of their first child, played an impactful knock that took the sting out of South Africa’s bowling. The Proetas depended heavily on their paces, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, but both came a cropper on this day.
The duo was torn apart by Pietersen and Kieswetter’s, in a partnership which perceptibly hurt the psyche of the bowling side. Steyn was smashed for three boundaries in his very first over while Morkel gave away two free hits in his opening over.
The momentum was with England, though South Africa had a chance when Pietersen edge one of Morkel, but neither Mark Boucher nor Jacques Kallis went for the catch.
Charl Langeveldt’s introduction only made matters worse. He conceded wides, sprayed the ball all over and was taken for plenty as England hit their way to 65 for 1 at the of the Powerplay. If South were able to restrict England to well below 200, which looked eminently possible at one stage, it was due to the efforts of experienced hands like Johan Botha and Kallis.
While the former conceded a stingy 15 runs in his quota of overs, Kallis ensured he bowled a tight line as well. But, Botha it was who ended Pietersen’s whirlwind knock, having him caught at short fine-leg.
Kieswetter also fell soon trying to up the ante. Wickets kept falling in the pursuit of runs as Paul Collingwood and Luke Wright also perished. Langeveldt came back well in the death overs, his yorker length deliveries came in handy in resisting England’s charge.
Slog over specialist Eoin Morgan also couldn’t provide the requisite finishing touches to the innings as the Proteas recovered reasonably well from an unimpressive start.
South Africa should have been buoyed by the comeback by their bowlers. But, it hardly reflected in their batting effort. Opening with Graeme Smith and Kallis chose to play it safe in the Powerplay overs, a ploy which backfired big time. As the pressure built up, Kallis miscued a drive to mid off. And when, England introduced spin, the match turned even more in their favour.
Herschelle Gibbs missed his chance to stand up being the senior pro, as Yardy removed him with his first ball; a mention has to be made of Sidebottom, who took a stunning catch running backwards.
If Yardy put in a notable effort, Swann was lethal. After troubling Smith on a number of occasions, he had him caught off an attempted sweep that was top-edged. Swann also got rid of the dangerous AB de Villiers cheaply as a pull shot was lapped up skipper Collingwood. South Africa were not helped by the fact that Albie Morkel could not repeat the heroics of his previous match.
He was cleaned up Yardy and soon the South Africans were struggling at 53 for 5. Sidebottom’s aggressive mop-up job meant, England were well on their way to secure a semi-final birth. Speaking of birth, the Englishmen would also hope that Pietersen returns in time for the semis, following his wife’s delivery.
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