Pietersen sets up emphatic victory
England 168 for 7 (Pietersen 53, Botha 2-15) beat South Africa 129 (Duminy 39, Sidebottom 3-23) by 39 runs
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England - How they were out
South Africa - How they were out
England completed a clinical 39-run win over South Africa at the Kensington Oval to get one foot in the semi-finals. The win was set up by a blistering half century from Kevin Pietersen, who added 94 for the second wicket with Craig Kieswetter as England got the better of South Africa's pace-heavy attack to post 168 for 7. England's spin duo of Michael Yardy and Graeme Swann then picked up 5 for 55 between them to run through the middle order, and were well backed up by the seamers as South Africa were rolled over for 129.
South Africa seem to bring out the best in Pietersen, and his match-winning knock today came in the nick of time as he will return to the UK in the next 24 hours to be present at the birth of his son. Provided there are no complications, he will return to the Caribbean in time for the semi-finals, which England now have a very strong chance of reaching.
The first signs that South Africa had misread a slightly tacky surface in opting for an attack based around quick bowling came when Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel were carted for 90 in a combined eight overs in the midst of Pietersen and Kieswetter's barnstorming partnership, while Johan Botha went for a miserly 15 and picked up wickets at important moments.
Steyn was smeared for three momentum-seizing boundaries in his first over and Morkel, perhaps trying too hard to live up to the pre-match hype about the pace and bounce of the Barbados pitch, overstepped twice in his first over. He bounced back to find the edge of Pietersen's bat with a rising delivery on off stump, but was left livid as Mark Boucher behind the stumps and Jacques Kallis at slip watched leaden-footed as the chance flew between them.
A clearly flustered South African unit looked to Charl Langeveldt to stem the flow, but after giving away an unnecessary five wides with a ballooning half-tracker in his first over, he was dispatched for 16 in his second - including a monstrous mow over long off by Kieswetter - to leave England well-placed at 65 for 1 after the Powerplay and the two batsmen peacocking haughtily mid-pitch.
The introduction of Kallis's experienced head to the attack, and the return of Botha, introduced a measure of calm to proceedings but South Africa's uncharacteristically sloppy fielding performance continued when JP Duminy put down a lollipop at deep midwicket to give Kieswetter a life.
Graeme Smith, desperately searching for a wicket, brought Steyn back into the attack, but his comeback over was duly carted for 16 as Pietersen charged to his half century from just 30 deliveries. Smith stuck with the economical Botha, and the entire South African team breathed a sigh of relief when a catch finally stuck as Pietersen was picked up at short fine leg to give the offspinner his second wicket.
When Kieswetter got underneath a lofted mow and Steyn held the chance at long on. South Africa sensed an opening, and when Paul Collingwood and Luke Wright fell on either side of another leaky over from Steyn, it looked as though they could keep England to a relatively modest total. And indeed, with Langeveldt finding the blockhole with unerring accuracy at the death and Eoin Morgan suffering a rare failure to finish an innings, South Africa's seamers came back from a shaky start to restrict England after it had looked like a total of 200 was on the cards.
South Africa's Powerplay was the antithesis of England's as Smith and Kallis chose to bide their time rather than attack and Tim Bresnan provided the metronomic accuracy to restrict the flow of runs. The pressure soon told, as Kallis toe-ended a drive straight to Pietersen at mid off in the fifth over.
It had been spin that made the breakthrough for South Africa when Pietersen and Kieswetter's power hitting was threatening to take the game out of their reach, and when Yardy struck to remove Herschelle Gibbs with his first ball of the match it was apparent that spin would be the deciding factor in this match. Yardy's wicket owed everything to Ryan Sidebottom's remarkable leaping catch running back from short fine leg.
Graeme Swann was brought into the attack in the very next over and almost immediately had Smith in trouble with his guileful variations as the South African captain was caught at deep midwicket off a desperate, top-edged sweep.
Albie Morkel was next, propping half forward to a delivery from Yardy that turned in a touch only to be bowled through a massive gap between bat and pad. The procession continued in Swann's next over as AB de Villiers went to pull a short ball over midwicket but top-edged and was well-caught by Collingwood to leave South Africa on 53 for 5 needing more than 11 runs an over.
They could soon have sunk further into the mire had Kieswetter not fluffed a simple stumping chance, but the miss was not a costly one, as Boucher chipped to midwicket soon after to hasten South Africa's slide. Sidebottom completed a superb day in the field with two wickets in his final over - the first from a sharp caught-and-bowled chance - to wrap up a resounding win and take England one step closer to the semi-finals.
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPN Cricinfo