England v South Africa, Champions Trophy, semi-final, The Oval June 18, 2013

Amla memories make Cook sweat


Match Facts

Wednesday, June 19
Start time 1030 (0930 GMT)

The Big Picture

South Africa at The Oval, with Hashim Amla in the line up: it's a thought to make even Alastair Cook sweat. Go back further and the ground played host to a one-sided thrashing during the 1999 World Cup, the defeat so damaging in terms of net run rate that it went a long way to seeing England knocked out of the competition they were hosting.

But England have won their last two encounters in global 50-over tournaments - in Centurion and Chennai - and will take comfort from South Africa's return to The Oval for an ODI last summer. Amla made 268 runs fewer than the 311 he amassed in the first Test, and was removed by no less a bowler than Jade Dernbach, before Jonathan Trott's patient half-century was followed a brisker one from Eoin Morgan in a four-wicket win. Sounds like a good formula, doesn't it? That the series finished 2-2 suggests these teams are reasonably well matched.

Both have experienced a few malfunctions in progressing to the knockout stage. England, one-time hot favourites, have cooled like a custard left in the kitchen, their much-documented penchant for platform-building lampooned in various quarters. Wear and tear to Graeme Swann - though James Tredwell has proven an able deputy - and the bowlers' inability to defend 293 against Sri Lanka mean they have long been usurped by India as frontrunners.

AB de Villiers, meanwhile, has had to contend with injuries to his two strike bowlers, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel - the latter tournament-ending - plus familiar jiggery pokery with Duckworth-Lewis (though this time it came to South Africa's aid). A sole group win over a hapless Pakistan is not the sort of form to fill opponents with dread, nor is a record in 50-over knockout competition that boasts just one appearance in a final, 15 years ago. At least they can take comfort in the knowledge that this match is unlikely to go the way of their 1992 World Cup semi-final against England.

At last year's World Twenty20, de Villiers was able to utter the word "choke" and not be immediately carted off. On this occasion, however, it is perhaps England who are more likely to be dragged down by an albatross around their necks. They have never won an ICC 50-over event and this may still be their best chance. Cook's men can't afford any more mistakes.

Form guide

(Most recent first, last five completed matches)

England WLWWL
South Africa TWLWW

Watch out for...

England's lower middle-order has generally failed to live up to its billing in this tournament, a couple of Ravi Bopara cameos aside. While Cook, Ian Bell and Trott have been assiduously accumulating - and are accordingly England's three leading scorers - Morgan and Jos Buttler have 51 runs, from 50 balls, between them. Cook has hit twice as many sixes (2) as both put together. The bang-to-buck ratio has been kept respectable by Bopara's death hitting but another failure to launch could be costly.

Much may rest on Steyn individually but it is South Africa's bowlers as a group that will be under the microscope. The injured Morkel aside, they went missing against India, before a much-improved display gave them an all-important win over Pakistan. Steyn was the difference against West Indies but, on another night, Ryan McLaren's three overs for 34 might have sent South Africa out of the competition. Bowling to England's more orthodox batsmen could mitigate against similar trauma.

Team news

Cook said that Swann's calf problem means he won't be risked unless 100%, as England keep an eye on challenges ahead. Tim Bresnan didn't train at The Oval on Tuesday, having left to visit his pregnant wife, now a couple of weeks overdue. He is likely to be replaced in the XI by Steven Finn, who has risen to No. 2 in the ODI bowler rankings despite having yet to feature in the tournament.

England (probable) 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Ravi Bopara, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 James Tredwell, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn

Steyn has a "good chance" of being fit, according to de Villiers, despite a groin problem that has superseded his previous side strain. Rory Kleinveldt or Aaron Phangiso are the likely back-up options, depending on the pitch, while Farhaan Behardien could be brought in to strengthen the batting, giving JP Duminy's offspin more of a role. South Africa have used three different No. 3s in the tournament so far and further experimentation can't be ruled out.

South Africa (probable) 1 Colin Ingram, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 AB de Villiers (capt, wk), 4 JP Duminy, 5 Faf du Plessis, 6 David Miller, 7 Ryan McLaren 8 Robin Peterson 9 Chris Morris, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe

Pitch and conditions

The Oval has tended to be a touch quicker than the other two venues, though after ten days of cricket a wearing pitch should encourage spin. Some overnight rain is expected to clear in time for the start and there might even be a few rays of sunshine over Kennington during the afternoon.

Stats and trivia

  • This will be South Africa's first trip to London in this tournament. They have lost their last four ODIs at The Oval, including against West Indies during the 2004 Champions Trophy.

  • AB de Villiers needs 36 runs to overtake Hansie Cronje as South Africa's sixth-most prolific ODI batsman.

  • Stuart Broad has taken 21 wickets at 15.61 against South Africa, his best average against any side in one-dayers.


"He's a fantastic player but all players are vulnerable early. If he gets in it's a danger for us."
Alastair Cook wants his bowlers to get rid of Hashim Amla pronto

"Unless we win this tournament, people will stay say you're chokers, so no matter what happens it's something we've dealt with."
AB de Villiers is so comfortable with the word he's now throwing it around

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shanmugam on June 19, 2013, 17:52 GMT

    @Dhirshan Gobind, it was a trouncing alright. Unfortunately for you, it was the other way round. People automatically assume that SA must be a great ODI team because they have a superb test team. The reality is that SA have a decent but not a great ODI side and that is reflected in the ICC ranking.

  • Shanmugam on June 19, 2013, 17:49 GMT

    @Mankappan Hu, I never said that stats give the whole story but you have not given any reason why Amla is better than Cook other than simply claiming that many would agree with you. Why is Amla better than Cook? And, FYI, Amla's average is higher than Cook's in both tests and ODIs. I will readily accept that Amla is a better batsman than Cook in ODIs but in tests, they are quite equal (despite Amla's better average). If you are going to claim Amla is the better batsman based on that one series in England, then all the power to you. But, don't forget Cook's superb series in India where he led his team to victory after 28 years in Indian soil. Amla may have more strokes than Cook, may play them more sweetly, but both are effective. The fact that Cook is also the captain now and has performed all around the world against all types of bowlers in all conditions makes me believe that he is at least the equal of Amla.

  • Lalith on June 19, 2013, 10:23 GMT

    SA 45 for 3. Lokks like Eng in the final

  • Parashu on June 19, 2013, 9:19 GMT

    ENG & SA haven't faced one another in a major SF since 1992 World Cup in Sydney-a match that SA should and would have won had it not been for the rain and thus D/L idiosyncracies!

    21 years on, rain still holds the key; but SA have broken the jinx just less than a week ago-so it should be beyond doubt who the clear favourites are!!

    ENG have so far got away with their "test match + t20 mix" of playing a 50- over ODI match; but are unlikely to get away tonight purely because of opposition who are a better-ranked side than ENG in both tests and 50 over ODIs! This, given the fact that neither side is a top T20 side at present[should rain & D/L prevail], makes SA the only choice for a winner!!!

  • Dummy4 on June 19, 2013, 9:09 GMT

    South Africa without DALE STEYN & MORKEL !!! What a relief for England.. But just got a news that SWANN & BRESNAN also not playing.. So that kinda balances it a little bit.. I feel it will go down to the wire but ENGLAND will have their nose slightly ahead coz f the home conditions.. Also, a lot depends on Amla, De Villiers & Duminy.. One out of these 3 will have to play the innings of his life coz SA already got a lifeline in the last match.. so they wud want to make it count n remove the "CHOKERS" tag.. its a DO or DIE fr dem. !! but am expecting an INDIA-ENGLAND final !!

  • Donald on June 19, 2013, 9:07 GMT

    For the sake of cricket, let us hope India/Srilanka win this tournament. It is always a travesty for a sport when a defensive/boring team gets the better of an aggressive/team with flair. Think about Italy over Brazil in football, Nadal over Federer or Murray over Djokovic in tennis.

    Why? It is because sport shouldn't be reduced to "winning justifies everything". The day any sport gets all too obsessed about who won a match/tournament and not HOW the tournament was won, is when sport has lost its purity. Don't get me wrong, Italy/Nadal/Murray winning world cups/slams is great, but if they become the defining team of the sport instead of Brazil/Federer/Djokovic, you can trust me football/tennis would have lost its appeal to the expert eye.

    The masses might still support it - like they do football over Chess/Bridge, but the wise ones in the world know which game requires greater faculties.

  • Richard on June 19, 2013, 9:00 GMT

    @Mankappan Hu - beg to disagree with YOUR comment ! Surely , a batsman's average pretty much sums him up , no ? How could it be otherwise ? To say that one batsman is better than another even though he has an inferior average is just double talk ! Or , perhaps , you have a more leftfield understanding of the word ' better ' ? Cheers !

  • Dummy4 on June 19, 2013, 8:58 GMT

    I think it's unfair to the word chokers to tag saffers as such if they loose today's match. Only Srilanka can do better justice to choke tag, because saffers look off color and aren't made of stuff they once had.

  • Lalith on June 19, 2013, 8:57 GMT

    If Poms win the toss they should ball first because Poms cannot defend. That is the Only way that Poms can win this match.I prefer Poms to win so that SL can meet Poms in the Final.

  • sharks on June 19, 2013, 8:54 GMT

    @Shan yes it was a mistake on my part, SA have indeed won the inaugural CT, and i had corrected it with a subsequent post which is not posted by cricinfo don't know why.

    @Greatest_game and @Shan Vernon is one of the best perhaps the best cricket bowler of the new generation in test cricket. But in shorter formats, he is mediocre so far. I would even go far and say that SA bowling lineup barring Steyn is mediocre outside their home conditions when it comes to one day and t-20s.

    Regarding Cook and Amla, both are almost neck to neck when it comes to tests however maybe because I am biased but personally I would give my nod to Cook. The way he led his team to victory against India in India should go down in history as one of the most awe inspiring achievement by a captain against all odds. His performance in that series suggested that he is one of those rare breed of batsmen who just don't give a damn about things like conditions, pitch, weather etc. Cricinfo please post it this time.