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Super Eight : South Africa vs England

It is a game that has been aptly described by the South African's as a Quarter-final. South Africa will clearly start as favourites against the Englishmen tonight, but there are a few factors that will give the Poms some hope. The track record of the Proteas in crunch games hasn't exactly been flattering, as has been their recent form. Looking imperious and on the same plane as Australia in the league matches, they have suddenly slid down to stumbling to a win against Lanka, losing convincingly to Bangladesh and fellow title contenders New Zealand.

 The only team of note that they have defeated is West Indies, and how much 'of note' the Windies have been this tournament is a debatable question in itself. All said and considered, it may not be safe to put your money on either team.

Bat England out of the game?

South Africa's batting efforts in this World Cup show that they have a potential to score 287 for 6 in their 50 overs as against England's corresponding figure of 229 for 7. That is a huge difference, and on paper, reflects that this game should be a cakewalk for the Proteas.

However, the figure of 287 has to be weighed in with other facts, for eg, South Africa's big 350+ scores have come against minnows in their first round, and against West Indies primarily on account of Lara' s misguided decision to reserve his last powerplay for overs 44 to 49.
Once you also factor in South Africa's struggle to score against Lanka and Bangladesh, you realize that although the African batting holds an edge over the Englishmen, the advantage isn't so huge that it cannot be overcome by a bad day.

The Pietersen factor

It is said that hate can either create you or destroy you. In Pietersen's case, it's clearly the former that has been at work.

In the 7 games he has played against South Africa, KP has scored at a phenomenal average of 151.33 runs, with three hundreds and a fifty in a single, remarkable series. Although he hasn't quite exploded this world cup, he has been one of England's chief scorers, scoring at a solid 30 points above his overall ODI average.
If Pietersen can bring about that explosion today, and with some support from Collingwood (scoring at 33 points above his normal ODI average in the World Cup), the game could be turned on it's head.

Bowling woes

Neither of the two teams have had a happy series with the ball. Key bowlers from both teams - Anderson, Panesar, Pollock, Kallis and Ntini - have been bowling at averages substantially worse than their normal ODI performance. With both bowling line ups bowling below par, it will be left to an individual effort from the few in-form bowlers to salvage the game for their sides.

Once you come down to that, you see that South Africa's best bowler in the series, Andre Nel (at 17.30 points better than his overall ODI bowling average) has done better than his English counterpart Flintoff ( 13.21 points).One more brownie point scored by Africa, albeit a very small one.

The weak African middle order

Another curious, but very important point is that prior to their game against Ireland, in four of the last five games in which they have lost 7 wickets or more (three of them being in this world cup), South Africa have lost wickets no. 3 to 7 for 47, 54, 49 and 64 runs.
This means of late, the South African middle order has been scoring at an average not significantly close to 11 runs per wicket. Even Geoffrey Boycott's mom would point that this is alarmingly low.

England's best bowler in the tournament so far, Freddie Flintoff, comes on to bowl first or second change. If the English opening bowlers can prise out a couple of wickets in the first 10 to 12 overs and let Freddie work on South Africa's weak underbelly, we could be in for another collapse leading to a dramatic result in a tournament that has clearly seen quite a few of them.










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