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England cricketers Stuart Broad, left, Andrew Strauss, centre, and Michael Yardy practise in the nets yesterday. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP
England cricketers Stuart Broad, left, Andrew Strauss, centre, and Michael Yardy practise in the nets yesterday. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP

No more surprises in store for England

England captain Andrew Strauss insists his side are in familiar territory ahead of South Africa clash.

With the shock of defeat against Ireland being followed by news that Kevin Pietersen is carrying an injury which needs surgery, England have picked the wrong time to meet South Africa, the form side of the World Cup.

Pietersen, who has been converted into an opening batsman at this World Cup, requires a hernia operation but will delay surgery until after the tournament, ruling him out of the Indian Premier League which follows.

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Despite the problems, Andrew Strauss, the England captain, insisted his side are "in familiar territory", saying they have a better idea of South Africa's weaknesses than they did of Ireland's. Judged on recent form, today's meeting in Chennai could turn out to be the type of mismatch the International Cricket Council are so keen to eradicate from their flagship 50-over competition.

The South Africans have sauntered through the competition so far, first with a seven-wicket win over the West Indies, then with a merciless demolition of the Netherlands.

England, meanwhile, seem like they have forgotten how to win. After the high of their Ashes success in Australia earlier this winter, they arrived in the subcontinent shorn of confidence, having lost the subsequent one-day series 6-1.

They reached a new low last time out when they were beaten by Ireland, but Strauss believes familiarity could breed success for his team.

"We are very excited about this game and in many ways we are in more familiar territory," Strauss said yesterday.

"We know their players better and we have had a fair amount of success against South Africa before.

"We are not going to get any surprise packages, we know what their strengths and weaknesses are and we have to bowl to our plans.

"The great thing about this tournament is you have the chance to get back on the bike straight away and make up for defeats.

"Something we have been very good at in the past is bouncing back if we have had bad results."

England's recent record against South Africa reinforces Strauss's point; his side have won seven of their past eight one-day internationals against the Proteas.

However, the South Africans have unearthed a new weapon since they last played England, in the form of Imran Tahir, the leg-spinner who has impressed during his debut tournament in South Africa colours.

Strauss accepted Tahir will be a threat, but pointed out that he is hardly an unknown quantity to his side, having played county cricket for Middlesex, Hampshire and Warwickshire.

Graeme Smith, the Proteas captain, said his side would be foolish to underestimate England on the basis of the defeat to Ireland.

"They are a very proud team; they've had some really good ups in the last two years and their performances have been credible over the last while," Smith said.

"The Ireland game would have hurt them a lot. It was terrific for the spirit of the World Cup but they will be looking to bounce back."

pradley@thenational.ae

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