India,March,6-2011:England pulled off a thrilling six-run win over South Africa in a Group B match at the MA Chidambaram Stadium to put their ICC Cricket World Cup back on track.South Africa appeared to be coasting towards a routine target of 172, on 63 without loss and then 124 for three – only to lose four wickets for three runs on an awkward spinners’ pitch. Then after an eighth-wicket stand of 33 between Dale Steyn and Morne van Wyk tilted an intriguing contest in previously unbeaten South Africa’s favour again, Tim Bresnan intervened – and Stuart Broad (four for 15) took the last two wickets in four balls.
England endured a wretched start this morning, after Andrew Strauss chose to bat first, but recovered in a 99-run stand between Ravi Bopara (60) and Jonathan Trott (52). They were still all out in only 45.4 overs as Imran Tahir (four for 38) and Robin Peterson (three for 22) did the bulk of the damage.
But, contrary to immediate perception, England had posted a competitive score. Strauss put their innings in immediate trouble when he unaccountably picked out the only fielder in the leg-side deep, down the pitch and launching Peterson towards the midwicket boundary where Francois du Plessis took a fine, tumbling catch.
That was one of two wickets in the first over of the match, after South Africa opened the bowling with the left-arm spinner – who was to see off three of England’s top order for three runs in 16 balls. Despite the partial success of Bopara and Trott’s fourth-wicket recovery mission, England then lost their last six for only 37.
Shocked by defeat against Ireland in Bangalore four days ago, they badly needed to bounce back here. But instead England lost their captain and Kevin Pietersen to lurch to three for two. Peterson took his cue wonderfully, after being chosen as the new-ball spinner. With Strauss already gone, Pietersen clubbed his second ball through mid-on for two – only to push forward to the next and edge to Jacques Kallis low at slip. Peterson was in business again when Ian Bell was done in the flight and checked a drive back at the bowler, who dived to his left to take a smart catch.
The spinner was surprisingly replaced by Kallis at the Press Box end, allowing Trott and Bopara a little breathing space. England nonetheless thought they were in more trouble when Amiesh Saheba gave Trott out lbw sweeping at Tahir on 20. But DRS demonstrated the ball was spinning past off stump. Trott survived to post an 87-ball 50, and Bopara would later follow suit at exactly the same tempo.
But by then his partner was gone to Tahir’s diving return catch. Matt Prior could lend only temporary support, before guiding an edge behind off the pace of Morne Morkel. Bopara, who had justified his recall for this pivotal fixture at the expense of Paul Collingwood by equalling his previous best score at this level, was pinned lbw on the back foot by a short ball from Morkel that did not make stump height.
Steyn then quickly made it 149 for seven when Bresnan departed in near action-replay circumstances to Bopara, and England’s second slump saw their innings quickly wrapped up. Hashim Amla was significantly more comfortable than his captain Graeme Smith in a half-century opening stand which suggested South Africa would saunter to victory. Yet both went in quick succession. A marginal DRS process for caught-behind saw to Smith, pushing forward at a Graeme Swann off-break, and was to prove a controversial and major turning point.
Then the introduction of Broad, the fifth bowler used after Strauss had opted to start with spin, brought the wickets of Amla – chopping an attempted off-side steer onto his stumps – and Kallis, caught behind low down. AB de Villiers and Du Plessis appeared to steady South Africa nerves with a stand of 42, until both went on 124. James Anderson returned to trim De Villiers’ bails, and impressive reactions from Bell at short-leg were enough to run out Du Plessis – who had gone up the wicket to Swann. Anderson then knocked back JP Duminy’s off-stump, and Mike Yardy had Peterson edging behind as South Africa ground horribly to a halt and suddenly could not stop losing wickets.
There was little respite, in fact, until Steyn struck Pietersen back over his head for a resounding four which suggested the momentum had perhaps changed again in this intriguing encounter. Anderson failed to hold a very tough return chance from Steyn on 15 shortly afterwards. But Bresnan returned to have Van Wyk playing on.
Still Steyn would not be moved until, with eight still needed in the 48th over, Broad was back to see him off lbw and then Morkel caught behind to give England their second win of the tournament and South Africa their first defeat. TEAMS England: AJ Strauss (captain), KP Pietersen, IJL Trott, IR Bell, RS Bopara,
MJ Prior†, MH Yardy, TT Bresnan, GP Swann, SCJ Broad, JM Anderson South Africa: GC Smith (captain), HM Amla, JH Kallis, AB de Villiers†, JP Duminy, F du Plessis, MN van Wyk, RJ Peterson, M Morkel, DW Steyn, Imran Tahir