x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Champions Trophy: South Africa concede 'choking again'

Relentless England bowling and poor shot selection saw Proteas bow out in semi-finals, writes Dileep Premachandran from London.

Jonathan Trott ensured there were no gremlins in England's batting as they chased down South Africa's modest target of 176 at The Oval. ?Ian Kington / AFP
Jonathan Trott ensured there were no gremlins in England's batting as they chased down South Africa's modest target of 176 at The Oval. ?Ian Kington / AFP
South Africa 175 (38.4 ov)

England 179-3 (37.3 ov)

Toss England, chose to field

South Africa Miller 56 n.o; Tredwell 3-19; Broad 3-50, Anderson 2-14

England Trott 82 n.o, Root 48; Kleinveldt 1-10

Man of the match James Tredwell (England)

"We did choke again," said Gary Kirsten, whose stint as South African coach ended with this crushing seven-wicket defeat.

"At the end of the day, it's an uncomfortable word that we've become comfortable with. England bowled exceptionally well, but that doesn't mean your batting should be 80 for eight."

That last quote from his tenure summed up this Oval semi-final, and South Africa's ill-fated adventures at ICC events. A combination of relentless English bowling - pace and spin - and awful shot selection saw them bowled out for just 175, and with Jonathan Trott again in commanding form, England strolled past the target with 75 balls remaining.

South Africa's plight would have been far worse but for a spirited partnership of 95 for the ninth wicket between David Miller (56 not out) and Rory Kleinveldt (43). But on a surface where the par score was at least 270, that recovery was never going to be enough.

To have any chance, South Africa needed a cluster of wickets with the new ball. They got just two. Chris Morris had Alastair Cook caught behind going for the pull, while Ian Bell made 20 before opening the face too cutely to Kleinveldt.

Trott, as Cook said later, was the perfect man to pilot such a chase. He put away the bad balls, especially those angled at his pads, and there was no pressure on Joe Root to do anything silly.

AB de Villiers opened with a spinner - Robin Peterson - at one end, and rotated his bowlers, but with no Dale Steyn, who failed a fitness test in the morning, and no Morne Morkel, there was never going to be a miraculous defence.

Trott and Root added 105 from 126 balls before Root (48) made a hash of a sweep off JP Duminy. Trott carried on serenely to finish with an unbeaten 84-ball 82.

On a dry pitch, South Africa lasted just 38.4 overs, never recovering from the loss of their openers in the first two overs.

After impressing against West Indies in the final Champions Trophy group game, Colin Ingram lasted just five balls, trapped in front by a James Anderson delivery that straightened a touch.

The hammer blow came five balls later, as the extra pace of Steven Finn accounted for Hashim Amla. The attempt to leave was not quick enough and the thin edge was superbly taken by Jos Buttler.

With Faf du Plessis taken his time to find his bearings, it was left to Peterson, promoted again to No 3, to get the innings moving. He did so with some pleasing strokes on either side of the wicket and down the ground.

Bell put down a difficult chance at extra cover when he had made 25, but Peterson could add just five more before Anderson, from round the wicket, swung one into the pads. After the finger went up, he opted not to go for the review.

What followed was a catalogue of woe. De Villiers chased a wide one from Stuart Broad and edged behind, Duminy played on to James Tredwell, and Du Plessis nicked one behind. From the relative respectability of 45 for two, South Africa had slumped to 70 for six.

Ryan McLaren, who averaged 83 for the tournament before this game, was then run out after going down the wicket to Tredwell. The ball deflected off the pad to slip, and Trott's deft underarm throw did the rest. Tredwell got his chance because of Graeme Swann's fitness issues, and he made the most of it and was named man of the match. Morris gave him a third wicket, also edging behind, and at that stage it did not look like South Africa would even get to three figures.

But Miller and Kleinveldt, who hit nine fours and three sixes between them, made the most of attacking fields, hitting cleanly over the top.

The crowd was restive by the time Broad returned to end what was South Africa's record partnership for the ninth wicket. Both Kleinveldt and Lonwabo Tsotsobe gloved short balls behind, leaving England with the most perfunctory of chases.

This was South Africa's seventh semi-final loss in an ICC tournament going back to 1992. Kirsten may be leaving the dressing room. The "C" word certainly isn't.

Dileep Premachandran is the editor-in-chief of Wisden India.

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