South Africa v England, Group E, Cape Town September 15, 2007

Pressure on England to rebound

Against teams without a specialist spinner, Owais Shah seems wasted at No. 7 © Getty Images

Contests between England and South Africa are building up a tasty rivalry and their first meeting in Twenty20 is a vital match for both teams. Everyone is back at square one now, with no points going forward from the first round, so whoever starts with a win will have a head start on chasing a semi-finals slot. The home side have hit form early on in the tournament, especially with the bat, and will also bring with them passionate support. England, though, won't be without their fans at Newlands and need to quickly move on from their drubbing against Australia. South Africa's recently memories are good too, after thrashing England during the World Cup.

Bat play: Do England stick or twist, especially with the top order? Darren Maddy has only had a couple of games, but Vikram Solanki is waiting in the wings and Luke Wright's last three scores have been 0, 0, 3. Against teams without a specialist spinner, Owais Shah seems wasted at No. 7.

South Africa have a selection issue after JP Duminy's useful display against Bangladesh. Herschelle Gibbs is expected to come back into the team, so it may be a quick return to the bench for Duminy. They showed a degree of flexibility by promoting Albie Morkel to No. 3, with success, so a few more of their allrounders could also perform floating roles.

Wrecking ball: South Africa's bowling attack continues to be a touch one-dimensional, but they at least showed more variety against Bangladesh. Makhaya Ntini is proving hittable with the new ball, his natural length allowing the batsmen to get underneath the ball. Morne Morkel has shown he has pace and Vernon Philander continues the strong early impression he has made in South African colours.

England have already tinkered with their fast-bowling line-up, but James Kirtley's return to international cricket amounted to one over for 17 against Australia and he was very nervous. Stuart Broad continues to bowl too short, while Andrew Flintoff isn't doing much to ease fears over his injury problems. Chris Schofield has held his own, but the attack certainly doesn't appear as threatening as it did against India only a few weeks ago.

Keep your eye on: He's a common theme, but Kevin Pietersen against his former countrymen is never a contest to miss. The last time he played in South Africa he went away with three centuries and turned the crowd in his favour. But there is plenty of feeling between him and Graeme Smith.

Shop talk: Coach Peter Moores will emphasise to his team the need to play with controlled aggression. "You have to be brave but you also have to be selective as well - that's the fine balance of Twenty20 cricket," he said. "When things become shortened your decision-making becomes a key issue all the time on who you attack and when you attack and you look for opportunities to go."

"We've had some success in the one-day game against them [England] in recent times," said a confident Smith. "Hopefully we can carry that into the match. They have some world class players and how we control that will be important. Our ability to put their bowlers under pressure will be a key part of the game." Smith also confirmed that Gibbs's rehabilitation is coming along well and he should play.

Pitching it right: "It didn't quite play as we expected," said Smith after victory over Bangladesh, which hints there was a touch more bounce in the surface. South Africa found that banging the ball brought more rewards, so hit-the-deck bowlers could be the key.


South Africa (probable) Graeme Smith (capt), Herschelle Gibbs, AB de Villiers, Justin Kemp, Mark Boucher (wk), Vernon Philander, Shaun Pollock, Johan van der Wath, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Makhaya Ntini

England (probable) Darren Maddy, Matt Prior (wk), Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood (capt), Owais Shah, Andrew Flintoff, Luke Wright, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Chris Schofield, Stuart Broad, James Anderson

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer on Cricinfo