/ 16 April 2007

SA, England chase last semifinal spot

The South Africans call it a World Cup quarterfinal. England has another chance it didn’t expect.

Struggling through in the Super Eights, they meet at the Kensington Oval on Tuesday chasing the last place in the semifinals.

With Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka already through to the last four, England and South Africa must slug it out. South Africa will qualify if it beats England, although England could still fail to qualify even with a victory.

Tuesday’s game is South Africa’s last in the Super Eights, while England must still play the West Indies in the final match before the semifinals.

South Africa, imperious-looking at the start of the tournament, has stuttered, inexplicably losing to Bangladesh in Guyana and then bettered by New Zealand in Grenada on Saturday.

England’s World Cup campaign has lurched from disappointment to crisis. It has beaten Bangladesh and Ireland, losing to Sri Lanka and Australia. The South Africans have lost to Bangladesh and New Zealand, beating Sri Lanka, Ireland and the West Indies.

Tuesday’s match promises to be a torrid seam-bowling confrontation on a hard and dry Kensington Oval wicket that is newly relaid and offering occasionally dramatic bounce and pace.

Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock and the aggressive Andre Nel will face off against the English pace attack of James Anderson, Sajid Mahmood and Andrew Flintoff.

The match will also feature England’s South African-raised Kevin Pietersen, the best one-day international batsman in the world at the moment, coming up against a South Africa team that has always reserved special abuse for him.

The 26-year-old received constant crowd abuse when he hit three centuries on his first tour of South Africa in 2005.

”It’s probably just a switch inside me that gets me going. It is something that triggers inside me that makes me want to give it an extra special go,” he told reporters on Sunday.

Pietersen and Proteas skipper Graeme Smith have both made derogatory comments about each other in the past but the England batsman wants to avoid a new feud.

”It’s a closed chapter now, the game on Tuesday is not about me and it’s not about Graeme Smith,” Pietersen said. ”What has been said has been said. It’s done and dusted. We are grown adults now.

”Whoever wins on Tuesday will probably find themselves in St Lucia the following week facing up against Australia in the semis so it is going to be a big game with a lot of needle.

”If they target me they target me, it really doesn’t bother me.”

Andrew Flintoff, who has struggled throughout the World Cup, was taken to hospital for blood tests for glandular fever. But he was diagnosed with a chest infection and took part in net practice, albeit not at full pace, on Sunday.

Middlesex left-hander Andrew Strauss also came through a fitness test after suffering a dead leg caused by an accidental collision with bowling coach Kevin Shine while playing beach volleyball. – Sapa-AP


England: Michael Vaughan (captain), Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Ed Joyce, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Ravi Bopara, Paul Nixon, Jimmy Anderson, Sajid Mahmood, Monty

Panesar, Liam Plunkett, Stuart Broad.

South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Herschelle Gibbs, Ashwell Prince, Robin Peterson, Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock, Andre Nel, Andrew Hall, Makhaya Ntini, Charl Langeveldt, Robin Peterson.