x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

England are out to do a South Korea

England's revival has been brought about by a trio of Middlesex teammates - the Karachi-born Shah, Dublin-born Eoin Morgan and the captain, Andrew Strauss, who was born just down the road from The Wanderers in Johannesburg.

Owais Shah missed out on a century for England.
Owais Shah missed out on a century for England.

It is funny how times change. Not so long ago the Champions Trophy was supposed to be a blight on the international landscape and a shoo-in for Room 101, a television series where people discussed pet-hates. Then, suddenly, it is the last chance of salvation for the 50-over game, a short jolt to subdue that pesky kid, Twenty20.

The competition has at various times been termed the "mini-World Cup". Thank goodness for the "mini" bit. If 50-over cricket needs a major tournament, then this should be the template. It should swap names with the World Cup, that over-sized beast of boredom. It only has the best teams, and, mercifully, it does not feel the need to play a thousand-odd matches, just to prove that Australia were, just as everyone suspected, the best.

If there is an upset or two, and the best team does not actually win - the hosts South Africa, are already out of this Champions Trophy - then all the better. Someone else termed it the League Cup of international cricket this week. More like the FA Cup, for which the cliche "the form book goes out the window" was originally written. Barely a week ago, England were useless at one-day cricket. They might still be, for all we know, but they are doing a good job of hiding it.

Graeme Swann, the England off-spinner, has drawn parallels to football's 2002 World Cup. "We can do a South Korea and maybe get to the semi-finals," he tweeted, prophetically, in the build-up. Which makes Andy Flower, whose coaching alchemy has already made England Ashes winners this year, a Guus Hiddink. Ahn Jung-Hwan, who scored the giant-killing goal for Korea which felled Italy, was played by Owais Shah on Sunday night, when England sealed their place in the last four and knocked out the hosts in the process.

"You always enter a competition to win it and the way we are playing at the moment I don't see why we can't go all the way," said Shah, whose scintillating 98 was the bedrock for that win. "I have always had belief in my own ability and I know what I am capable of doing. It's just about doing it when it matters." England's revival has been brought about by a trio of Middlesex teammates - the Karachi-born Shah, Dublin-born Eoin Morgan and the captain, Andrew Strauss, who was born just down the road from The Wanderers in Johannesburg.

Morgan has already had success in one competition in South Africa this year - leading Ireland to the World Cup in the Qualifiers, which also involved the UAE, in April. If his sparkling form continues - his 67 against South Africa came at a strike rate of nearly 200 - he could end up triumphant for his adopted nation also. Strauss, who put the Proteas' captain Graeme Smith's nose out of the joint by refusing him a runner in the latter stages of their encounter, will not be particularly popular with today's opponents either.

The captain is accused of being stubborn and shedding his sportsman spirit when it came to a match being at a crucial stage and Smith going great guns. His New Zealand counterpart Daniel Vettori would be hoping a defiant England side does not turn up to ruin their chances. They need to beat England tonight if they are to advance with them to the last four, at Sri Lanka's expense. Their task remains sizeable after Jesse Ryder, the big-hitting opener, was ruled out of the competition after sustaining a groin injury while setting up their win over Sri Lanka. He has been replaced in the squad by Aaron Redmond.

pradley@thenational.ae