South Africa stifle feeble England
South Africa 154 for 8 (Morkel 43, Broad 3-37) beat England 135 for 7 (Shah 36, Pollock 2-17) by 19 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
South Africa's bowlers, inspired by an exemplary spell from Shaun Pollock and lifted by the controversial run-out of Kevin Pietersen, throttled England's overawed batsmen under the floodlights to seal a vital victory in their opening Group E encounter at Newlands. A quickfire 43 from 20 balls from Albie Morkel had lifted South Africa to a decent total of 154 for 8, but England made it look positively mountainous thanks to some rash top-order shot selection and a feeble attempt at slogging from the tail.
England's prospects at the halfway mark had been good. Their bowlers had been badly let down in the field, with four gilt-edged chances spurned in the deep, but a target of 155 was not out of the question, especially with Pietersen back facing the country of his birth. On his last visit to South Africa in 2004-05, he scored 454 runs in six ODI innings, and while he was at the crease, looking ominously composed despite (or, perhaps, because of) the chorus of boos that greeted his arrival, England looked well placed to secure an important victory.
Instead Pietersen was run out for 14 after a controversial mid-pitch collision with the bowler, Pollock, and in his absence England's momentum and resolve crumbled. The incident brought to mind a similar moment in Kolkata in 1998-99, involving Sachin Tendulkar and Shoaib Akhtar in the Asian Test Championship. Then as now, the batsman could have no complaints. He was caught ball-watching as Makhaya Ntini produced a pinpoint shy from backward square-leg, and Pietersen was caught inches short as he got his bat wedged between Pollock's legs and flipped dramatically into the crease.
It was the moment of the match, but South Africa were worthy winners regardless. Pollock produced a superb spell. He conceded just 17 runs and a solitary boundary in his four overs, and was involved in each of the first three wickets to fall. Luke Wright - a minnow among sharks in this tournament - squirted a fretful drive to point for his second duck in three games, and moments after Pietersen's demise, Paul Collingwood wafted loosely at his first delivery and was caught behind off a legcutter.
Thereafter, England were listless. Matt Prior, still struggling to impress as a pinch-hitter, swatted one four and one six in a 31-ball stay, but once again fell when apparently well set. The only other batsman to reach 30 was Owais Shah, who seemed well placed to be England's hero until he picked the wrong ball to pull off a good length, and had his bails trimmed by the excellent Albie Morkel.
England's lower-order were sadly out of their depth - not least the off-colour Flintoff, whose dancing feet betrayed his unease as he attempted to swipe every other ball over the midwicket boundary. He was badly dropped at deep cover by Vernon Philander as he carved a short ball from Morkel, but it was no surprise when, with 35 runs needed from 10 balls, he stepped across once too often, and was bowled round his legs by Johan van der Wath.
Jeremy Snape - like his fellow county Twenty20 star Darren Maddy - found the step-up in class insurmountable amid the pressure. Bizarrely sent in ahead of the six-hitting Dimitri Mascarenhas, he prodded and poked for 11 agonising deliveries before chipping a lofted drive to cover. England's challenge faded long before their mathematical prospects elapsed in the final over, but in truth it was over from the moment Pietersen fell. That is the extent to which his presence dictates their fortunes.
With the ball and in the field, England's challenge was vastly superior, though equally error-prone. The bowlers made key breakthroughs at regular intervals, with Stuart Broad starring with 3 for 37. His wickets included that of J-P Duminy - included in the place of the injured Herschelle Gibbs - with his first delivery, while several of South Africa's batsmen were guilty of over-ambition.
Graeme Smith top-edged a heave to third man and AB de Villiers swished loosely outside off stump to leave their side precariously placed at 43 for 3 at the end of the six-over fielding restrictions, and though Mark Boucher and Justin Kemp kept their side ticking over with a fourth-wicket stand of 49 in 50 balls, they lost three further wickets in 11 balls - including Pollock for a duck - to slip to 94 for 6.
But Albie Morkel was badly missed in the deep on 14 as Collingwood and Shah each left a top-edged pull to the other man, and Morkel immediately climbed into the luckless bowler, Schofield, swinging the last three balls of an excellent spell for six. Schofield himself then palmed a limp attempt at a catch at long-on onto the rope for a further four, as South Africa helped themselves to a total that was at least 20 runs above their expectations. In the event, those runs proved decisive.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo