The stumps of England's Andrew Flintoff are seen after he was bowled by South Africa's Andrew Hall during their Super Eight match in Bridgetown yesterday. - Reuters
Tony Becca, Contributing Editor
SOUTH AFRICA, dancing to the music of Andrew Hall's swinging deliveries and the strokeplay of captain Graeme Smith, waltzed into the semi-finals of the 2007 Cricket World Cup and in the process slammed the door on the West Indies' chances of making it into the top four with a scintillating performance against England at Kensington Oval yesterday.
Going into the match on six points from five matches in the Super Eight section of the tournament and needing two points from their last match in the round to guarantee themselves a place in the semis, South Africa lost the toss, were given the ball, and with Shaun Pollock dropping it on the same spot ball after ball, with Hall, swinging it through the air, cutting it off the pitch with enough pace and a fair amount of bounce, and grabbing five wickets for 18 runs, proceeded to cut down the best of England's batsmen for a disappointing total of 154 in 48 overs.
And then, with the sun shining brilliantly, with a cool wind blowing across the ground, and with a crowd estimated at some 25,000 - just below its capacity of 28,000 and the biggest gathering ever at a cricket match in the Caribbean - looking on, South Africa, paced by a sparkling innings of 89 not out off 58 deliveries by Smith, strolled to 157 for one off 19.2 overs to win with nine wickets in hand and 30.4 overs to spare.
With Australia - a perfect five from five and on 12 points, New Zealand - four from five and on 10 points, and Sri Lanka - three from five and on eight points - already through to the last four, yesterday's victory by South Africa not only handed them the last spot, not only left the West Indies - on only two with only two to play - out of the running, but also England.
England, on four from four going into the match, are now on four from five, and with only one match to come, against the West Indies on Saturday, they are, like the Windies, in a position where they cannot now surpass any of the top four.
Probably remembering that they won the toss five days ago at Kensington Oval, that they sent lowly Bangladesh to bat, and that after routing them for 143, they struggled to get the runs, England had little or no hesitation in deciding to bat first after captain Michael Vaughan had called correctly.
It was a mistake they will remember for the next four years, as with Pollock keeping things tight, with Andrew Nel - three for 35 off his 10, and Hall confusing them with his swing and his cut, with all their pacers, including Charl Langeveldt and Jacques Kallis, stifling, choking and then ripping them apart, they were under pressure from the first over when Bell edged Pollock past slip, and they never recovered.
In the eighth over, it was nine for one when Ian Bell, in desperation, attempted to hook Lange-veldt and Ashwell Prince took a step forward at square-leg and accepted the catch. It was 37 for two in the 13th over when Vaughan was trapped in front by the pace of Nel for 17, and it was 53 for three in the 17th over when Kevin Pietersen, attempting to drive Nel through the onside, top-edged a low catch to captain Graeme Smith at mid-off and departed the scene for three after facing 15 deliveries.
With the Barmy Army cheering them on, England rallied, and with Andre Strauss, 46,and Pete Collingwood, 30, stroking the ball confidently, they put on 58 in 15 overs and looked ready for the fight and they bid to stay in the hunt for a place in the semi-finals.
That, however, was not to be, and with Kallis striking in his sixth over, with Hall, after probing away, suddenly pouncing like a tiger and pocketing four wickets in nine deliveries, England were destroyed as South Africa went hunting and grabbed five wickets while conceding 10 runs in 4.3 overs.
For South Africa, chasing a target of 155 off 50 overs at a rate of 3.10 runs an over, it was like taking candy from a baby on a day when England were booed off the field.
Smith, the big left-hander who stroked 13 exquisite boundaries, started things going with two lovely strokes off Mahmood - a square-cut and a flick off his hips to the backward square-leg boundary, and when A.B. de Villiers, in an over two later, went back and hit James Anderson to the wide long-on boundary and then forward and drove the pacer to the cover boundary, it was all over bar the shouting.
|I. Bell c Prince b Langeveldt ||7|
|M. Vaughan lbw Nel ||17|
|A. Strauss c Smith b Kallis ||46|
|K. Pietersen c Smith b Nel ||3|
|P. Collingwood lbw Hall ||30|
|A. Flintoff b Hall ||5|
|R. Bopara not out ||27|
|P. Nixon c Boucher b Hall ||1|
|S. Mahmood b Hall ||0|
|M. Panesar c Boucher b Nel ||2|
|J. Anderson lbw Hall ||0|
|Extras: (3nb, 4b, 4lb, 5w) ||16|
|TOTAL: (for 10 wkts - 48 overs) ||154|
Fall: 1-9, 2-37, 3-53, 4-111, 5-115, 6-119, 7-121, 8-121, 9-144, 10-154.
Bowling: Shaun Pollock 10-2-17-0 (1nb), Charl Langeveldt 7-1-38-1, Andre Nel 10-3-35-3 (2nb, 4w), Andrew Hall 10-2-18-5, Jacques Kallis 8-0-22-1, Justin Kemp 3-0-16-0 (1w).
South Africa innings
A.B. de Villiers c Nixon b Flintoff
|G. Smith not out ||89|
|J. Kallis not out ||17|
|Extras (4b, 2nb, 3w) ||9|
|TOTAL: (for one wkt - 19.2 overs) ||157|
Bowling: Jimmy Anderson 5-0-32-0 (2w), Sajid Mahmood 4.2-0-49-0 (1nb), Andrew Flintoff 6-0-36-1 (1nb, 1w), Monty Panesar 2-0-24-0, Paul Collingwood 2-0-12-0
Result: South Africa won by nine wickets.
|P ||W ||T ||L ||NR ||Pts|
|x-Australia ||6 ||6 ||0 ||0 ||0 ||12|
|x-New Zealand ||6 ||5 ||0 ||1 ||0 ||10|
|x-Sri Lanka|| 6 ||4 ||0 ||2 ||0 ||8|
|x-South Africa ||7 ||4 ||0 ||3 ||0 ||8|
|England ||6 ||2 ||0 ||4 ||0 ||4|
|West Indies ||5 ||1 ||0 ||4 ||0 ||2|
|Ireland ||6 ||1 ||0 ||5 ||0 ||2|
|Bangladesh ||6 ||1 ||0 ||5|| 0 ||2|
x- advance to semi-finals