England v SA, Champions Trophy, semi-final, The Oval June 19, 2013

Anderson the catalyst for crushing win

The day could hardly have gone more smoothly for Alastair Cook as England moved one step closer to a major achievement that has eluded them for so long

It was not, perhaps, the scenario spectators expected when they bought their tickets. The result was hardly in doubt by 11am; the result was decided before 5pm and several snoozed in the sun for long periods in the afternoon. For the impartial onlooker, this was probably a rather boring game.

But from an England perspective, this was wonderfully, gloriously, beautifully boring game. After many years where success in ODI cricket has been a brief interlude in a general drama of pain, England secured their place in the final of a global ODI competition for the first time since 2004 and the second time since 1992. They may never have a better chance of shedding the embarrassing tag as the only team in this competition not to have won such a title.

The uncharacteristic show of emotion from Jonathan Trott upon hitting the winning runs was telling. It has been an ambition of his for some time to play in the final of this competition at his home ground of Edgbaston and here he produced a typically calm innings to ensure it will happen.

Nerveless and apparently unhurried, he still managed to score at close to a run-a-ball and, in his last 12 ODIs, has now registered one century, five half-centuries and been dismissed for under 37 only once. He has averaged 75.77 in that time. He will never win over all his critics but, in this situation, there is no more reassuring sight in English cricket than Trott scrapping his mark.

It would be easy to take Trott's runs for granted. But, when Alastair Cook and Ian Bell fell, England were 41 for 2 and only another wicket away from seeing their slightly vulnerable middle-order exposed. Pressure appears to bring the best out of Trott, though, and he led the run chase with the remorselessness of a hunter pursuing its prey. "It was quite a high pressure situation," Cook said afterwards. "Trotty played a great innings,"

But this was not a victory set-up by England's batsmen. It was set-up by England's excellence in the field and a woefully poor performance with the bat from South Africa. Winning the toss on a humid morning was, doubtless, an advantage and James Anderson, in particular, exploited it expertly. But there is no getting away from the fact that South Africa's top-order folded with pathetic weakness.

So England were fortunate. They were fortunate that South Africa were without Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel and Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis. They were fortunate to win the toss. And they were fortunate their opposition played so badly.

But they were also fortunate when New Zealand dropped Alastair Cook three times on the way to his match-defining contribution in the previous game. And they were fortunate when Australia batted so poorly against them in their opening match of the tournament.

Good fortune tends to follow when a team plays consistently good cricket. It tends to follow when a team applies consistent pressure. It exploits any weakness and forces mistakes. The very best teams may not always be beaten by such a tactic, but it is the best plan England have and they follow it with precision. They will not start the final as favourites, but there are certainly not no-hopers either.

If Anderson were the sort to care about such trifles, he might consider himself unfortunate not to be named the Man of the Match. He bowled an excellent first spell that set the tone for the entire game.

There has been precious little conventional swing available in this competition, but Anderson found just enough to account for Colin Ingram and Robin Peterson, both of whom were set up by out swing and trapped by deliveries that swung in amid a spell that threatened consistently and offered the batsmen almost nothing.

While Steven Finn and Stuart Broad were disappointing, James Tredwell sustained the pressure with a spell that won him the match award. While only the odd delivery turned, it was enough to plant a seed of doubt in the minds of the batsmen and Tredwell, varying his pace subtly and bowling a tight line, benefitted as the ball sometimes turned but more often skidded on to batsmen playing without conviction.

There were other impressive performers for England. Jos Buttler, who has enjoyed a fine tournament as a wicketkeeper to date, equalled the England record for the most dismissals in an ODI by claiming six catches - one an excellent diving catch down the legside; another a good diving catch to his right to dismiss Hashim Amla and a couple of neat efforts standing up to Tredwell - while Cook captained with ever increasing confidence and individuality.

It would be premature to compare Cook to Mike Brearley or similar but, just as he improved as a Test and then ODI batsman, he showed here that he is developing into far more than a 'captain by numbers.' His decision to allow Anderson a seven-over opening spell was unusual, if hardly groundbreaking, while his use of three slips at times showed a welcome desire to attack when appropriate.

England may face some tricky selection decisions ahead of the final. Tim Bresnan, his baby now safely delivered, will be available and may well replace Steven Finn, while Tredwell will be hard to omit even if Graeme Swann is fully recovered. They are not the worst issues with which to wrestle.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • VaRUN on June 21, 2013, 5:43 GMT

    This military medium pacer Andersun will be taken to the cleaners by Dhawan and Rohit come Sunday.

  • John on June 21, 2013, 3:33 GMT

    @RandyUK on (June 20, 2013, 22:03 GMT), good to see you back "fair-weather" Randy. I guess enough time has passed since Australia's ignominious ousting from the tournament for you to show your face again. I'm just wondering one thing: when you talk about "beat up", do you mean when the English press reported on David Warner trying to punch Joe Root? He didn't exactly beat him up so you may be overreacting there.

  • Ashok on June 21, 2013, 0:04 GMT

    Anderson & Swann are the 2 bowlers who consistently Perform a shade above the rest. Today it was Tredwell who replaced Swann just as well. Without Smith, Kallis in batting & Steyn & M.Morkel in bowling, SA looked a shadow of themselves & were completely out played. However Cook's statement about England winning the Final must also be tempered with caution. Indian team is good one - only team that has won all its 4 matches on rout to Final. India beat SL in the Semi Final, a team that surprisingly beat England by 7 Wkts. India has shown their capability of playing the pace bowlers much better than they did when they toured England 2 years back. It is a Young team which will present England with strong challenge. Both Anderson & Jadeja have a tally of 10 wkts. Dhawan is the leading run getter in the 4 matches he played. I think England will face for the first time a balanced side opposing them. This tourney so far was a great one but the best is yet to come in the Final- weather holding

  • Randolph on June 20, 2013, 22:03 GMT

    Ahh the English press beat up continues. Will it ever end. 2 wickets and he's the best ever.

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2013, 18:27 GMT

    Steyn vs Anderson is a very good comparison because they are that good and they are that close. They have different tools but equally effective. Both are masters of conventional swing. Anderson goes one up on reverse swing but Steyn's yorkers and bouncers are more effective due to his greater pace. Philander and Malinga are excellent but I just feel Steyn and Anderson have that extra bit of versatility. Both of them have demonstrated how good they are on flat Indian wickets and there's no greater challenge for a fast bowler these days. I'm glad that we have these guys because they are a dying breed. If you think of the 90s...Ambrose, Walsh, Akram, Younis, Mcgrath, Donald, Pollock...what a time that was for fast bowling. But at least these guys are keeping the legacy alive, although I fear for not very long because they are nearing the end of their careers too. I just love quick bowling.

  • Ning-nong on June 20, 2013, 17:09 GMT

    @Front Foot Sponge - your compliment of Anderson is rightly so, but as a cricket fan, I feel that there has always been too much made out between the battle of Steyn and Anderson, if we look at what Philander has achieved in the recent past he for me joins Steyn as the leading world XI bowler, despite being overlooked for the CT he is equally as impressive at home against most batting line-ups. He also dismantled the Aussie batting line-up single handed, (nothing amazing considering recent Aus team in decline). Also I wish to make mention as Anderson has done himself, the most recent king of swing had been Mohammad Asif, from whom Anderson studied and gained his new found ability to dart balls both ways, & then there was the baby prodigy Mohammad Amir - these guys were the two MA's, unfortunately could not see it through like the two W's.

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2013, 16:08 GMT

    realy now this article is about jimmy and england,and comparing jimmy and steyn again gosh people steyn is thee best hands down

  • John on June 20, 2013, 12:15 GMT

    @BlueN on (June 20, 2013, 1:45 GMT), to be precise, a catalyst is not consumed by the reaction. Some catalysts provide an active site for a reaction to take place but some very much take part in the reaction. In some cases, the catalyst is both an input and an output of a reaction.

  • shashwata on June 20, 2013, 11:16 GMT

    @BlueN wrote "A catalyst does not participate in a reaction " in relation to England's win and Anderson's role in it.

    Well sir , since you have such a wonderful (?) knowledge of chemistry , you may well be aware that THERE ARE CERTAIN REACTIONS WHICH ARE NOT EVEN POSSIBLE WITHOUT A CATALYST. The reaction is England's winning this match and the catalyst is our very own J.M. Anderson.Also as may know, a catalyst initiates a reaction and makes it proceed faster.

    Quite a metaphor there.

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2013, 7:33 GMT

    Yes England are so lucky we are without our first choice spinner (Swann) and our best ODI batsman (KP). I'd hate to see us unlucky....