ICC Champions Trophy: Bowlers take England to final, Proteas `choke` again
London: An impressive bowling performance powered England to the Champions Trophy summit clash as the hosts thrashed South Africa by seven wickets in the first semifinal, here on Wednesday.
The hosts bundled out South Africa for a meagre 175 after inserting them in to bat and then comfortably overhauled the target with 12.3 overs to spare.
Such was the domination of the England bowlers that AB de Villiers and Co found it difficult to buck the trend of faltering in major ICC tournaments.
It was complete team effort by England as all the bowlers played a part in demolishing the South African top and middle batting order.
England had their rivals on the mat as they had reduced them to 80 for 8 at one stage and Proteas owed their recovery to some gritty batting by David Miller (56), who in the company of tail-ender Rory Kleinveldt (43) added 95 runs for the ninth wicket in 16 overs.
James Anderson (2/14) and Steven Finn (1/45) excelled with the two new balls and were duly complemented by Stuart Broad (3/50) and off-spinner James Tredwell, (3/19).
England lost their openers early but Jonathan Trott (82 not out) and Joe Root (48) batted with clam and assurance to lead the hosts to the finish line. They shared a 105-run stand for the third wicket.
Trott paced innings well as he batted cautiously initially and started playing strokes once it was sure that England had reached a safe position.
It is second time that England have qualified for the Champions Trophy final. The last time they featured in the final was in 2004. That time also they had hosted the event and ended runners-up to the West Indies.
England will now play the winner of Thursday`s semifinal between World Champions India and Sri Lanka in the summit clash on June 23 at Birmingham.
South African bowlers did a decent job, specially spinner Robin Peterson, but England had the luxury of wickets with a small target at hand.
Proteas removed openers Alastair Cook (6) and Ian Bell (20) early but Trott and Root did not allow South African to seize the momentum. They batted with a lot of responsibility as they waited for loose deliveries.
Trott`s knock came off 84 balls with 11 boundaries while Root helped himself with seven shots to the fence in his 71-ball knock. By the time Root JP Duminy dismissed Root, England were inches from the win.
Earlier, South Africa scripted a remarkable late recovery as they were down in the dumps at 80 for eight at one stage but managed to give their bowlers something to fight for.
Miller`s unbeaten half-century and Kleinveldt`s fighting knock provided some semblance of respectability to the total.
Miller`s innings off 51 balls contained five fours and two sixes as he launched a swift counter-attack with an able ally in Kleinveldt who also didn`t get bogged down by the reputation of the English bowlers. The South African pacer hit four boundaries and a six.
Just when it looked like South Africa would be dismissed for one of their lowest totals in ODI history, the duo provided stiff resistance with some positive strokeplay. Finally, Broad dismissed Kleinveldt with a rising delivery on the rib-cage, giving a catch to glovesman Jos Buttler.
Buttler enjoyed a field day behind the stumps with six catches to his credit as he also caught last man Lonwabo Tsotsobe to take his sixth scalp.
After being put into bat, Proteas wilted under pressure as none of the top-order batsmen save Robin Peterson (30), Faf du Plessis (26) were able to reach double digits.
The slide started in the very first over when the wily Anderson got one to straighten after pitching as he found the left-handed opener Colin Ingram (0) plumb in-front.
It became worse in the next over when Finn bowled a beauty which kissed Hashim Amla`s (1) bat to be taken by glovesman Jos Buttler. The delivery landed on seam and moved a shade to take a faint edge for Buttler to take a smart catch.
At four for two, Peterson and Du Plessis joined forces to add 41 runs for the third wicket. They did show some positive intent with the former going for the horizontal bat shots. However that proved to be his undoing when Anderson found his pads while trying a cross-batted shot.
Once Peterson was gone, there wasn`t any resistance from other batsmen as wickets tumbled at regular intervals. Skipper De Villiers (0) played an irresponsible shot as he chased a wide delivery from Broad to offer Buttler a simple chance.
Once the top-order was polished off, Tredwell came into the act and Cook`s decision to field him was vindicated as he ran through the middle-order.
First, Jean-Paul Duminy (3) was bowled while going for a cut and was played on. Du Plessis, who looked set for a big score then edged a ball that didn`t spin much after pitching.
Miller was getting frustrated at the other end as Ryan McLaren was run-out and Chris Morris (3) was out giving Buttler his fourth catch of the innings.