Sunday, 29 November 2009

Rout of Africa: England instantly unbeatable in Port Elizabeth

SO this is rapidly becoming the Jekyll and Hyde tour. One minute England are absolute rubbish, bring 'em home, drop the lot. Then they're unbeatable, superb, give them all a knighthood.
Did I say unbeatable? After today's emphatic seven-wicket victory over South Africa in Port Elizabeth that's exactly what Andrew Strauss's men have become, given that they're 2-1 up in the One-Day series with one to play at Durban on Friday. Not bad against a side unbeaten in ODI series since 2002.
Today's victory, set up by a best-ever James Anderson (10-3-5-23, right), superb discipline plus incredible fielding and finished off by Cape Town-born Jonathan Trott's unbeaten 52, was in total contrast to Friday night's record thrashing at the hands of Graeme Smith's men at Newlands.
We blamed that little lot on Strauss's failure to win the toss. He lost it again today and admitted afterwards: "That was a good toss to lose" as a "very disappointed" Smith chose to bat and, despite being 55-3 and 78-4, slumped to 119 all out off just under 37 overs.
Strauss grinned: "We had a good chat about what went wrong in Cape Town and were very accurate today. James Anderson was outstanding, creating pressure and bowling wicket-taking deliveries as well."Anderson said: "We had a chat after the last game because we didn't bowl as well as we could have done. We wanted to come here and bowl a lot better, and luckily we got a wicket (Smith) that helped us with our plans."

They all failed, the great South Africans who had made our lives a misery in Cape Town. Graeme Smith went first, leg before to Stuart Broad for two, Hashim Amla was Anderson's first victim for 11 and the great AB De Villiers was snaffled up by a jubilant Tim Bresnan. He look unhappy with the LBW decision, but it looked pretty good on Sky. But then I would say that. I'm off to cover the four Tests next week and this is just the result England needed.

Somehow, despite the huge gulf between these two sides, were are going to get to the four five-day clashes without losing either the Twenty20 or the ODI showdowns. Amazing.

Yet today England actually looked the tighter, more impressive outfit, just as they had in Centurion a week before. Anderson, shrugging off his injured knee, bowled like a dream, Strauss captained with verve and purpose, bringing Jimmy back quicker than expected to complete his first five-wicket haul in ODIs, Luke Wright, though he didn't bowl that well, finished the Proteas with an astonishing one-handed catch to get rid of Alviro Petersen, South Africa's only batsman on the day with 51 off 79 balls.
Trott led the way in reply, scoring his 52 off 77 balls and though he lost skipper Strauss for 28 after a 74-run opening partnership, Eoin Morgan joined him with 28 off 38 to complete victory. Oh, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood failed but by then, who cared?
Durban on Friday becomes a real contest, with South Africa desperate to bounce back, struggling to retain that unbeaten home record. But somehow, it won't matter. England are unbeatable!

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