If England ever needed a warm-up ahead of the Ashes to test their batting line-up, they can count on South Africa today, especially if they have a fully fit Dale Steyn back in their ranks.
England have played the quietest, yet most effective cricket of the tournament where they have let the top order build the platform for their explosive lower order to exploit.
They did so against Australia and Sri Lanka, but they came a cropper against New Zealand in Cardiff, where they lost 7/28 after they had been 141/3. With their history of collapses, England will know that such moments can decide tournaments.
South Africa will need their lower order to step up, especially in the face of the reverse swing onslaught they will encounter against England.
Regardless of how England obtains their reverse swing, which has been a big topic in England, South Africa’s middle order has tended to waste the starts the top order has provided for them.
How they run in between the wickets will indicate their mental strength and approach to the game.
With the most run-outs conceded in the tournament, teams will know that South Africa’s calling is not the best. They only had one run-out against the West Indies, a crack fielding outfit, which should boost the confidence.
Key match-up: Colin Ingram vs James Anderson
Anderson has made sure all teams don’t get off to good starts against England. Ingram, who saw off a different threat in Sunil Narine in Cardiff, could be tasked with dealing with the best exponent of swing bowling other than Dale Steyn.
Warm and muggy conditions could be conducive to excellent bowling conditions, but The Oval has provided the best batting track of the tournament. The roughish pitch square, which extends across the field, should scuff up the ball quickly, but that is not what Ingram will have to deal with, it will be conventional swing.
Dale Steyn’s fitness has always been a big issue throughout the tournament and any team would line up the South African bowling attack without Steyn. Proteas’ captain AB de Villiers sounded chirpy and confident about Steyn’s availability and the fact that they could win without Steyn. Other than that they have a clean bill of health.
Tim Bresnan has been up and down in the tournament but he did not take part in training to be with his heavily pregnant wife. Should he not be available, Steven Finn could be in line to make his first start of the tournament.
South Africa: Hashim Amla, Colin Ingram, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (C & WK), JP Duminy, David Miller, Ryan McLaren, Robin Peterson, Chris Morris, Dale Steyn/Aaron Phangiso/Rory Kleinveldt, Lonwabo Tsotsobe
England: Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler (WK), Tim Bresnan/Steven Finn, Stuart Broad, James Tredwell, James Anderson
What the captains said:
“But if there is something funny happening, then it’s definitely a concern, yes,” said De Villiers on England’s ball-tampering allegations.
“It’s another day tomorrow (today), it’s another game, and what’s gone on in the past has no relevance to tomorrow. It’s whichever side handles the pressure well tomorrow, and people in that side in your own side, put your hand up and deliver, and that’s what you have to do in these big games,” England Captain Alastair Cook said about the Proteas’ habit of choking in knockout matches.
Start time: 11:30am (SA time)
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