Hall of Shame for Dire England

Five wickets for Andrew Hall set up a nine-wicket South African thrashing of England, and booked a place in the semi-finals.

The Super Eight stage of the 2007 World Cup had until today missed the essence of the knockout. Too many matches had been between sides with vastly differing objectives: reaching the semi-finals and saving face; winning the tournament and not coming last; sending out a message and resting the entire bowling attack. Today was different. Today, for both England and South Africa, was win or bust.

South Africa made two changes from the team that slipped to tame defeat against New Zealand, bringing in Justin Kemp and Charl Langeveldt for the ineffectual Robbie Peterson and out-of-form Makhaya Ntini, whilst England – still to beat top eight opposition all tournament – were unchanged.

England’s approach to the opening overs of the powerplay was also unchanged; and, after one over apiece from Shaun Pollock and Charl Langeveldt, so was the scoreboard. Hence the tone, and the torpor, was set. Michael Vaughan took 17 balls to get off the mark. Midway through the eighth over, England had scored nine, and Ian Bell was the first to crack as he skied a wholly ill-advised pull shot to Ashwell Prince at square leg.

The dismissal, like a shot of caffeine into the vein of a sleepwalking trucker, stirred Vaughan into life. A similarly injudicious pull found the third man ropes, before a brace of wristy fours, each flicked through midwicket, spurred England on to the heights of 28 for one at the end of the first powerplay. A powerfully-struck pull shot from Strauss sailed over the midwicket ropes an over later, and England appeared to be threatening to finally build an innings. Then Andre Nel’s second ball accounted for the England captain, pinned LBW, and if the wheels were not yet off, the hubcaps had definitely been pinched.

Four overs later, England’s engine had been pilfered into the bargain. A typical Kevin Pietersen swagger down the wicket, followed up by an intended whip to leg, could only generate a leading edge, and a gentle skew to an ecstatic Graeme Smith at mid-off. For the next sixteen overs, very little happened. Justin Kemp responded to Mark Boucher’s decision to stand up to the stumps with a particularly stupid bouncer, sailing away from the unimpressed keeper for four byes, and single upon single ground out a fifty partnership for England.

Nelson was as good as it got. Strauss expertly picked out Smith at fourth slip, and then Andrew Hall blew the roof off. Collingwood was the first to fall, trapped in front by an inswinger. Then Flintoff followed, bowled through the gate by another inswinger; and, just in case England’s tail needed any further clarification on what the allrounder was sending down, Paul Nixon edged the same delivery – an away-swinger to the left hander – through to Boucher.

Suitably prepared for the inevitable challenge, Sajid Mahmood advanced his claim for consideration as an all-rounder by deftly guiding his inswinger through onto leg stump. It was left to Ravi Bopara to preserve what little respectability England still held – guiding them at least past Holland’s 132, mustered against the South Africans in the ground stage. With the half-hour defiance of Monty Panesar, he achieved that smallest of landmarks: but when James Anderson’s answer to another dose of Andrew Hall was all pad, Simon Taufel ended England’s stumblings two overs short of their 50.

Set 158 to win, South Africa went about it with the minimum of fuss. James Anderson’s first over only cost three runs, but Sajid Mahmood’s cost 14. AB de Villiers was 12* from five balls, and the run chase was already a foregone conclusion. Saj’s next over cost another 14, and by the end of the ninth over South Africa had 80 unbeaten runs – past the halfway mark of their pursuit.

De Villiers eventually fell to Flintoff, top-edging a cut shot through to Nixon, but this merely cued Graeme Smith to seize the strike. Monty Panesar’s second over leaked a Mahmood-like 15 runs, as the South African captain seemingly decided that he would be scoring the rest of the target in boundaries. Between de Villiers’ dismissal and the end of England’s misery, 40 of the 72 runs scored came in fours from Smith’s blade: the tenth of which, down the ground off Mahmood, sealed the victory. Smith ended unbeaten on 89, from just 58 balls – for his opposite number, a reversal of the two numbers would have been an achievement.

In between the carnage, there was time for Jacques Kallis to register his 9000th ODI run, and to squeeze past Matthew Hayden to the top of the tournament’s run-makers list, but the headlines had long since been written. Unless New Zealand deal out a thrashing of a similar magnitude to today’s when they meet Australia, the Black Caps will take on Sri Lanka in one semi-final, and South Africa will meet the favourites and champions in the other.

It’s been a long time coming, but the business end of the World Cup is finally taking shape.

England 154 (48)
Andrew Strauss 46, Paul Collingwood 30
Andrew Hall 5-18, Andre Nel 3-35

South Africa 157-1 (19.2)
Graeme Smith 89*, AB de Villiers 42
Andrew Flintoff 1-36

South Africa won by 9 wickets

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Andrew Hall (South Africa) – 10-2-18-5

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