Table-toppers brace for showdown
Match FactsSaturday, May 8, Bridgetown
Start time 1330 (1730 GMT)
The Big Picture
For contrasting reasons, England and South Africa endured stuttering starts to their World Twenty20 campaigns, but right at this moment the pair are sitting pretty at the top of Group E with one convincing Super Eights victory apiece. All of which means that Saturday's showdown in Barbados will push the victor to the very brink of the semi-finals.
England might feel they have a slight psychological edge, having secured a morale-boosting five-wicket victory over South Africa in last week's warm-up fixture on this same ground, but two factors ought to dent their optimism a touch - firstly, England had to recover from a shaky 9 for 3 in order to chase down a middling target of 127; and secondly, that collapse was instigated by neither Dale Steyn nor Morne Morkel, two quick bowlers who looked in awesome touch in South Africa's subsequent victories over Afghanistan and New Zealand.
When the teams last met competitively in this format, in South Africa before Christmas, the series was shared 1-1 - although that scoreline masked the sheer brutality of South Africa's victory in the second match at Centurion, when Loots Bosman and Graeme Smith smashed a massive opening stand of 170 in 13 overs, en route to an insurmountable final total of 241 for 6.
With Albie Morkel finding his range against New Zealand with a six-laden 40 not out from 18 balls, South Africa's range of power-hitters remains formidable, but England have unearthed a few top-notch tonkers of their own. Eoin Morgan's repertoire is already well known to Smith's men, but the decisive joust may well come at the top of the order. Michael Lumb and Craig Kieswetter have shown prowess against less accomplished attacks, but how will they fare against the world's top-rated pace attack?
Form guide (most recent first)England: WNLLW
South Africa: WWLWL
Watch out for...
On a lively surface against Afghanistan, Morne Morkel was thuggishly effective, banging away on a splice-jangling length to rout the rookies with figures of 4 for 20. And while England's experienced batsmen will not be caught quite so unawares as that, it nevertheless remains to be seen how they seek to combat Morkel's fearsome combination of height, pace and bounce. In their win against Pakistan, England's own seamers used the short ball as a default setting, the notion being that cross-batted strokes are trickier to control than straight-batted lofts and drives from fuller-length deliveries. Expect a fair few deliveries to rattle the rib-cage on Saturday.
Given the current make-up of England's top-order, Kevin Pietersen's South African connections no longer set him apart from his colleagues, but whenever these two teams collide, he is invariably pitched into the spotlight. And, following a disappointing winter tour of his homeland, it's fair to suggest he'll be ultra-motivated to make amends in this match. He made a first-ball duck in the warm-up, but goes into this game with some much-needed form, having rattled along to 73 not out from 52 balls against Pakistan. And what is more, with the birth of his son drawing ever nearer, every next innings could be his last of the campaign.
England have resisted the temptation to tinker with their line-up since the surprising decision to select Ryan Sidebottom ahead of James Anderson, and the probability is that they'll stick to the same again, much to Anderson's chagrin. He was the forgotten hero in England's last win over South Africa in this format, at Johannesburg in November, when he clawed his side into the ascendancy on the Duckworth-Lewis charts with a tight final over in a one-run win, but right now he's out of favour.
England (probable) 1 Michael Lumb, 2 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 3 Kevin Pietersen, 4 Paul Collingwood (capt), 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Luke Wright, 7 Stuart Broad, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Michael Yardy, 11 Ryan Sidebottom.
Bosman has form against England following his remarkable 94 in Centurion, but he has struggled in the Caribbean and against New Zealand he made way at the top of the order for the old guard of Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith, with Herschelle Gibbs slotting in at No. 3. Charl Langeveldt's canny swingers have been an asset since he was drafted into the side as well, and he's likely to hold his place against familiar opponents.
South Africa (probable) 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Jacques Kallis, 3 Herschelle Gibbs, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 JP Duminy, 6 Albie Morkel, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Johan Botha, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Charl Langeveldt.
Pitch and conditions
It's a springy surface and bowlers have enjoyed themselves so far in the tournament, although the ability to put bat through ball hasn't exactly cooled the ardour of the likes of Pietersen, Morkel and even Afghanistan's Hamid Hassan. The weather is set fair - fairer, certainly, than anything England encountered in Guyana - and the likely scenario is that the side who wins the toss will bat first.
Stats and trivia
- The teams have met in four previous Twenty20 internationals (with one abandonment). England's only win came in Johannesburg, while they were comfortably beaten in each of their previous two World Twenty20 encounters.
- England have purged their Twenty20 line-up to such an extent that only four of the men who took the field at Centurion in November are likely to line up in Saturday's match. Whither Joe Denly, Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Adil Rashid, Matt Prior and Sajid Mahmood?
Quotes"I've played in the team for five or six years and to have a batting line-up like we have now is incredible. For every bloke from one down to nine or ten to be able to hit sixes is brilliant."
Kevin Pietersen is pleased, publicly at least, not to be the only go-to man in the England batting line-up
"We've been searching for the right combination and we certainly started a little rusty in this tournament."
Graeme Smith believes the best is yet to come from South Africa.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.