Unbeaten England Favoured Over Nuggety South Africa

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Unbeaten England favoured over nuggety South Africa. If Australia win and South Africa lose, the Australians will join England in the final four. Victory for both the Aussies and the South Africans would leave the matter in the hands of net run rate.

Unbeaten England Favoured Over Nuggety South AfricaIf Australia win and South Africa lose, the Australians will join England in the final four. Victory for both the Aussies and the South Africans would leave the matter in the hands of net run rate.

The Overview:

Losing is unlikely to stop England from finishing at the top of the Group 1 standings. Winning may not be enough to earn South Africa a place in the semi-finals. The contrasts between these teams, who clash in the last of their T20 WC group games in Sharjah on Saturday, don't end there.

Unbeaten England have been a juggernaut, dismissing West Indies for 55 and Australia for 125, and never losing more than four wickets. South Africa, beaten by the Aussies with two balls remaining, scraped home with a delivery to spare against Sri Lanka.

Going into Friday's games, Jos Buttler's 67-ball 101 not out against Sri Lanka in Sharjah on Monday was the tournament's only century. Aiden Markram's 51 not out against the Windies in Dubai last Tuesday is not just the South Africans' top score but their only half-century at an event where 35 other efforts of 50 or more have been recorded.

South Africa's bowlers, particularly Anrich Nortje and Dwaine Pretorius, have kept their team's play-off hopes alive with their respective returns of eight wickets at an economy rate of 4.56 and seven at 6.08. England don't have a bowler among the top 10 wicket-takers, but Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Chris Jordan, Chris Woakes and Liam Livingstone are all operating at less than a run-a-ball.

Expect the key contest to be between England's batters and South Africa's bowlers, although the absence through a thigh injury of Tymal Mills, the most successful seamer in the English squad, should even those odds a touch.

The English have roared off into the brave new world of white-ball cricket, swinging their bats innovatively and their bowling arms cannily. South Africa, particularly at the batting crease, have looked like an ODI side from the mid-1990s; content to nudge and nurdle their way to a defendable total or a successful chase using good old cricket strokes.

England have reeled off five consecutive T20I wins against South Africa, all of them since February last year, and have lost only one of their last 10 games in the format. Whichever way you spin it, Eoin Morgan's side will be heavily favoured to add a fifth victory to the four they have achieved at the tournament. And yet …

This South African team are unlike those who have gone before. They arrived unfancied, they have not panicked, and they are winning without much help from their stars – Quinton de Kock has yet to fire and Kagiso Rabada was off his mark for three games before he took 3/20 against Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

South Africa are having a much better time of it than they did the last time their men's team were at a World Cup: the 50-over version in England in 2019, when they lost five of their eight completed games and were out of the running before the end of the group stage. So reaching the semis would be a welcome over-achievement.

England and Australia are currently in the semi-final positions, but should the Aussies stumble in Saturday's earlier match – against the Windies in Abu Dhabi – and South Africa win, England and South Africa will advance. If Australia win and South Africa lose, the Australians will join England in the final four. Victory for both the Aussies and the South Africans would leave the matter in the hands of net run rate. At least South Africa, by dint of playing in the later game, would know how quickly they would need to score to nudge past the Australians. Only England, whose booming NRR of 3.183 is more than three times Australia's, would seem secure.

Seven of the 10 IPL games in Sharjah this year were won by the team batting second, as have five of the ground's seven T20 WC matches. Three of the latter have been day/nighters, and two of them went to the side fielding first.

The smart money will be on an England win. Happily for South Africa, a lot of money isn't smart.

When: England vs South Africa, Super 12 Group 1, 14:00 Local, 16:00 SAST

Where: Sharjah Cricket Stadium

What to expect: Don't believe everything you read about this ground being a batter's graveyard. The truth is runs flow faster per over in T20Is in Sharjah (7.23) than in Dubai (7.10) or Abu Dhabi (7.18). How the runs are scored on Saturday will be influenced by the fact that the pitch to be used is only two strips from the edge of the table. So one of the square boundaries will be significantly shorter than the other.

T20I Head to Head: England 11-9 South Africa (1 no result; 2-3 in T20 WC games)

Team Watch:


Injury/Availability Concerns: Tymal Mills was ruled out of the rest of the tournament earlier this week, which means there will be at least once change to England's team. Mark Wood, who has been struggling with an ankle issue, came through a training session on Thursday and will need to do the same again on Friday in order to be considered to play. David Willey is the other option to come into the team.

Tactics & Matchups: England played far more aggressively against Sri Lanka's pacers in their last match as the slowness of the Sharjah surface made taking slow bowling on far trickier. Sri Lanka's spinners conceded just 34 runs from their combined eight overs. England could adopt a similar approach against South Africa too, by sitting in against Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj and trying to attack the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje.

Probable XI: Jason Roy, Jos Buttler (wk), Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan (c), Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Mark Wood/David Willey, Adil Rashid

South Africa

Injury/Availability Concerns: Somehow Temba Bavuma's thumb, Tabraiz Shamsi's groin, David Miller's calf and Quinton de Kock's previously unbent knee are all holding up. Clearly the magic spray really is magical. All are fit and accounted for.

Tactics & Matchups: Quinton de Kock remains South Africa's most dangerous batter, even though he hasn't scored more than 16 in any of his three innings in the tournament. If he strikes form South Africa will undergo a batting revolution. With Kagiso Rabada having rediscovered his mojo against Bangladesh on Tuesday, and Anrich Nortje boasting the best economy rate in the tournament for bowlers who have sent down at least 15 overs, the South Africans could have the most potent pace pair in the business.

Probable XI: Quinton de Kock (wk), Reeza Hendricks, Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram, Temba Bavuma (c), David Miller, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi

Did you know?

No team have lost fewer wickets in the tournament than England's dozen. And no team have taken more wickets than the 39 claimed by England.

What they said:

“One of the things that makes me extremely proud is that regardless of how well we've done or how poorly we've done, guys have always wanted to get better. They're not really that interested in standing still or spending too much time reflecting on what has been and gone. They want to continue to get better because they know that once you lose that drive in trying to achieve things individually and as a team, it has a big repercussion effect on the wider game and throughout our country.” – Eoin Morgan

“We've really had to graft as a batting unit. We've always spoken about being flexible, and looking at the players that we have in the team, I felt that I could do a role up front but I could also do a role within the middle. We've had a guy like Rassie [van der Dussen] go in earlier because we know if he has the opportunity to face a considerable amount of balls he can really put a bowling attack under pressure. A guy like Reeza [Hendricks] has come off well recently at the top of the order. So we're trying to utilise that form.” – Temba Bavuma

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