हिन्दीಕನ್ನಡമലയാളംதமிழ்తెలుగు

SA 'chokers' face Eng 'no hopers' in virtual Q-F

Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2007, 6:31 [IST]
 
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Bridgetown (Barbados):There is no quarter-finals in this ongoing World Cup but Tuesday's encounter between South Africa and England at the Kensington Oval promises to be just that.

While a win for the Proteas will propel them into the semi-finals, for the Englishmen, it will provide them with a lifeline to just sneak in to last four through the backdoor if they win their last Super Eight match against hosts West Indies.

Greame Smith will be wary of the 'chokers' tag that the talented side seem to have a copyright on while Michael Vaughan's side will have to prove to the world that they are more than 'no-hopers' to desrve a semi-finals spot.

For once South Africa would be praying for lady luck to go their way, especially after a tied match against eventual champions Australia dashed their hopes of semi-final berth in 1999 World Cup and then in 2003 World Cup when they were hosting the showpiece event, miscalculation, weather God and a funny Duckworth-lewis method combined together to deny the Shaun Pollock's side a semis spot.

However, this time Smith's men just have themselves to blame for landing in a do-or-die like situation following their shock loss to a relatively weaker side - Bangladesh.

South Africa's tame demise to New Zealand means Tuesday's game is now as good as an eliminator. Besides it has paved the way for Sri Lanka to progress to last four, leaving South Africa, England and West Indies to fight it out for the fourth and final berth.

''We will win the match,'' was the grim announcement of captain Graeme Smith while talking to media. When he was in Guyana he probably never dreamt his team's fortunes would be decided in the their last Super Eight match.

''We know we can do this and we are going to fire on all cylinders. I have asked all my players to give me this victory,'' said Smith.

And yet in his heart of hearts he knows only one team will progress at the expense of the other.

England, who have lost to all Test-playing nations except Bangladesh so far have struggled to come to terms in the nearly seven-week extravaganza and hardly deserve to still be in the race. But South Africa have been erratic themselves. Had they not inexplicably failed against Bangladesh, England would not have much to play for now.

''We know we have an outside chance and we also know that our batsmen are not playing well. That includes me also. But since we have been given this opportunity, we will make the fullest possible use,'' said Mark Vaughan.

But the way they made heavy weather of chasing a paltry 143 against Bangladesh and Paul Nixon's bout of celebrations after knocking off the wining run, it left none present in the Kensington Oval in double mind that only South Africa can ensure their own defeat against England and not the other way round.

If the pitch at the Kensington Oval on Tuesday is as spicy as expected, the showdown between two sides will boil down to the side that boast of a stronger fast bowling department rather than spin.

There is little love lost between both the sides and the tension could test the tempers further.

Skipper Graeme Smith is known for his sledging and had run-ins with England when the teams last met in South Africa two winters ago. Michael Vaughan was warned by the umpires for his players' less-than-angelic language in the field against Sri Lanka a few days ago in the Super Eight tie.

But the chief point of friction will be the presence of South African emigrant Kevin Pietersen in the England side. He is the presently world's No.1 one-day batsman and easily his team's best player on view but Smith may attempt to ruffle his feathers in the hope that Pietersen's concentration is disturbed.

But Ponting found out the hard way when he tried to unsettle 'Big Kev'. The Aussies had won that Super Eight match but Pietersen came up with a gutsy century to help his team to respectable total. Besides Smith will ignore AB de Villiers, Makhaya Ntini, Jacques Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs at his own peril.

Pietersen is no saint himself and has announced his dislike for Smith in his autobiography and given the animosity between them, it would be a surprise if Smith does not orchestrate some sort of verbal assault when Pietersen walks out to the wicket.

Meanwhile England's most successful bowler James Anderson is convinced England can exploit South Africa's reputation for choking on the big occasion.

''South Africa have shown in the past they can struggle when teams put them under pressure. So that's what we'll be looking to do,'' Anderson chided.

The team winning the toss should probably bowl first and back their pace bowlers to make decisive inroads with the new ball.

But if the team batting first muster a 240-plus score, they could make life difficult for the chasing team and in this situation Monty Panesar might come into his own.

In England's case, batting second would have the added advantage of sparing their fragile top order from exposure to Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel and Pollock.

If the Englishmen beat South Africa and avoid a heavy defeat by West Indies on Saturday they will be in the semi-finals for the first time since 1992.

Teams:

South Africa: Graeme Smith (capt), Jacques Kallis (vice-capt), Loots Bosman, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Justin Kemp, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterson, Shaun Pollock, Ashwell Prince and Roger Telemachus. Coach: Mickey Arthur.

England: Michael Vaughan (capt), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Paul Collingwood, James Dalrymple, Andrew Flintoff, Ed Joyce, Sajid Mahmood, Paul Nixon, Monty Panesar, Kevin Pietersen, Liam Plunkett, Andrew Strauss and Stuart Broad. Coach: Duncun Fletcher.

Agencies

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