South Africa 175 all out (38.4 overs). England 179-3 (37.3 overs)
We always suspected that picking a winner in our semi final against South Africa would be a toss up, and so it proved – literally.
Winning the toss was absolutely crucial at the Oval on Wednesday. It was humid; it was overcast; both sides had good pace attacks – and of course, winning the toss and bowling first ensured that England wouldn’t have to set a target. Our Achilles heal – pacing an innings – was therefore never exposed.
England were also helped by the absence of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. South Africa looked vulnerable, and so it proved. Once Amla and De Villiers were dismissed, the result was never in doubt really.
We’ve now got a brilliant opportunity to win our first ever ICC 50 over trophy. Even better, we get to rib the hapless Saffers for choking in big semi finals for another two years. I’m not sure which will give us more pleasure to be honest.
The heroes yesterday were Jimmy Anderson (again) and James Tredwell, who must be the most modest bloke in international sport. If he slept with Jessica Alba at an after match party (unlikely, I admit) he probably wouldn’t tell anyone; and if he did, he’d probably describe her as ‘a nice girl with a pleasant personality’.
Even if Graeme Swann is 100% fit for the final, there’s a good argument to retain Tredwell anyway. He’s pretty good you know – even if he looks more suited to lawn bowls than spin bowling. His figures of 3-19 off 7 overs earned him the man of the match award, and allowed Jonathan Trott all the time in the world to take England to victory.
Talking of Trott, I don’t think anyone would’ve cared if he’d taken 3 hours to score his 82 yesterday; his brief was to take England to victory at all costs. As it happened, he scored his runs at a run a ball. A strike rate of 50 would’ve done, Jonathan. Isn’t it about time you stopped scoring too quickly?!
So now it’s on to the final, where we’ll either play India or Sri Lanka. How do you rate our chances? Personally I’m not sure what to think.
Part of me fears that England have been at their best in this tournament in traditional English conditions, when Anderson can swing the ball and make early inroads. Edgbaston will be completely different.
Birmingham has sandy grass which usually creates extremely dry pitches. This should enable India or Sri Lanka to suffocate our batsmen with spin. The big thing in England’s favour, however, is local knowledge:
Ashley Giles, plus Trott and Bell too, know Edgbaston better than Michael Clarke knows the Australian physio room. In the group game against the Canary Yellows, England were criticised for scoring too slowly. However, Giles and the Warwickshire lads knew better. The target we set ended up being extremely competitive. Maybe history will repeat itself?
Inevitably, all eyes will be on Thursday’s other semi final. You’d expect India to win, but as Sri Lanka proved against England last week, you can never write off a team boasting Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Malinga.
If I was to give any cricket styled tips, I like India’s odds to win the tournament. They look the best team to me, and I still worry that England’s top order is too one-paced.Meanwhile, if India make it to the final, their batsmen will relish getting stuck into Stuart Broad and England’s fragile fifth bowler.
However, we’ve been wrong before – and let’s face it, if England win another crucial toss, maybe it’s our year to finally win a 50 over tournament. We’ve waited bloody long enough.
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