Sunday, September 27, 2009
Start time 2:30pm, 12:30 GMT
Well, who'd have thought it? England, their chances written off - or even laughed off in some cases - announced themselves at the ICC Champions Trophy with a smooth six-wicket victory against the previously impressive Sri Lanka. How would they counter their first meeting with Ajantha Mendis? Leave him wicketless. How would they quell a flamboyant Sri Lanka top order? Take them out for 17 runs. How would they repel an old foe in Muttiah Muralitharan? Take him for 60 runs in 10 overs. Easy, this one-day lark.
What makes England's unexpected success more notable is that their next opponents, South Africa, were efficiently dismantled by Sri Lanka in the opening match of the tournament. However, as Andrew Strauss said, now is not the time to be getting carried away. One win does not make an international trophy.
England will be disappointed to leave the Wanderers behind for this match after encountering a surface that suited their pace-heavy attack perfectly. James Anderson and Graham Onions exploited helpful conditions, but runs have been slightly easier to come by at Centurion so the attack should be tested. They will need to tighten up on wides - 21 was far too many against Sri Lanka - while some of the middle-innings bowling verged on the brainless. South Africa, after a slow start to their season, are finding their stride and will punish any looseness.
The hosts sharpened their game against New Zealand to get their campaign back on track. Wayne Parnell claimed five wickets and AB de Villiers looked in ominous form. This will be the first of many meetings between the two sides over the next few months; in November England return for a full Test and one-day tour. In the present, though, it's all about reaching the semi-finals of this tournament and South Africa can't afford any more slips. It's a pressure game for Graeme Smith's team, and pressure can do funny things to South Africa.
(last five completed matches, most recent first) England - WWLLL South Africa - WLLWW
England are in the rare position where changes aren't required. They have a balanced attack, with Graeme Swann to complement the four quicks, and Paul Collingwood is a more than handy operator. Collingwood's return to form has a huge impact on England's one-day unit, but Strauss could do with better control from Stuart Broad and Luke Wright.
England: (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Joe Denly, 3 Owais Shah, 4 Paul Collingwood, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Matt Prior (wk), 7 Luke Wright, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Graham Onions.
South Africa know their best one-day team and generally stick with it. Herschelle Gibbs has been passed fit for selection and should slot back in alongside Smith. How England combat the 20 overs of spin from Johan Botha and Roelof van der Merwe will be vital, while Dale Steyn will want to lay some early makers for battles ahead.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Herschelle Gibbs, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 JP Duminy, 6 Mark Boucher (wk), 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Johan Botha, 9 Roelof van der Merwe, 10 Wayne Parnell, 11 Dale Steyn
Watch out for...
Eoin Morgan was one of the few bright spots to come out of the 6-1 hammering to Australia, but that was based largely on one brisk innings at Trent Bridge. Now he has brought his form to South Africa and shown his expertise in pacing a run chase with 62 off 83 balls. England have lacked someone who can control the middle of an innings since Graham Thorpe and before him Neil Fairbrother. Morgan is viewed as the man for that role and his unorthodox technique makes him difficult to bowl at - although occasionally his dismissals can look ugly
England will be seeing plenty of Wayne Parnell in the next few months. He hasn't made his Test debut yet, but the Centurion Park meeting between these teams is odds on. In the one-day side he is already a central figure where he has added a new dimension to the attack. He hasn't been at his best so far, proving expensive in both matches, but has already collected eight wickets including 5 for 57 against New Zealand.
Pitch and conditions
The Centurion surface hasn't offered the amount of help that England enjoyed at The Wanderers, but there has still be something there for good bowling. As ever in these parts there is a threat of thunderstorms, but so far they have only impacted one match.
Stats and trivia
These two teams have met twice at Centurion Park, once in 1996 and then in 2005, with South Africa winning on both occasions.
Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood survive from the England side of 2006, while Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher are certain to play for South Africa.
"They have got a very good side. They were number one in the world when the tournament began, we are down at number six. We will have to play above ourselves to beat them." Andy Flower on the challenge facing England on Sunday.
"We have had a good record against England in the past apart from last year's series in England but we will be treating them just like we would any other side in the tournament." AB de Villiers is calm going into a crunch game.