After their midweek heroics against Sri Lanka, England return to the World Twenty20’s centre stage to take on South Africa at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong, Bangladesh.
With both nations currently on the fringes of semi-final qualification, the stakes couldn’t be higher as we cross the halfway point of the Super 10 group stage.
Date: Saturday, March 29
Time: 1:30 p.m. GMT/9:30 a.m. EDT (7:30 p.m. local)
Live on: Sky Sports 2
Though both sides recorded important victories on Thursday over their Super 10 Group A rivals, they came about in very different circumstances.
England performed heroics with the bat to eclipse Sri Lanka’s 189 in the very last over of the match; South Africa, meanwhile, stuttered to victory by just six runs after the Netherlands put up a noble fight.
Alex Hales stole the show with a 116 knock against the Sri Lankans, closed out with a spectacular six, to bring about England’s highest ever chase in T20Is, as ESPN Cricinfo reported via Twitter:
While Hales received the headlines and the “jolly good show, old chap” praise, his partner at the crease, Eoin Morgan, also played his part.
The pair chalked up 152 runs between them and reached the landmark 150 in double-quick time on a crisp Thursday evening in Bangladesh, per BBC TMS’ Twitter feed:
150 partnership between Hales and Morgan from 90 balls pic.twitter.com/ZeDxfBwIav— BBC TMS (@bbctms) March 27, 2014
Despite the fantastic display with the bat against Sri Lanka, the fielding left a lot to be desired as Ashley Giles’ team made some rather amateur drops throughout.
Following the match, captain Stuart Broad commented how England were lucky not to have been punished for their poor handling, per John Ashdown of The Guardian:
"We really messed up dropping five or six catches. We can't afford to drop key players like that. We've got away with it today but we'll have to raise our standards for the next game."
Yet there wasn’t a great deal wrong with the England bowling itself, and Chris Jordan’s figures of 2-for-28 will bring encouragement ahead of Saturday’s showdown.
Broad got the ball swinging at times, but it was the deliveries of Jade Dernbach that received negative scrutiny from the England fans despite the Surrey star helping himself to two wickets.
The 28-year-old’s economy rate came under the spotlight with one Twitter user, who pointed out that Dernbach’s T20I rate has gradually got worse since his England debut back in 2011:
Dernbach's economy rate is worsening match by match: pic.twitter.com/gS5aHLNfz6— Mike (@tendofan) March 27, 2014
If England’s fielding can click into place together with maintaining their batting form, then they could make light work of the inconsistent South Africa.
The South Africans haven’t really gotten going so far in the World Twenty20, but the fact that they’re still winning matches speaks volumes.
In their last two matches, the Proteas have made life rather hard for themselves and have left it late to emerge narrowly victorious.
Against the Netherlands, South Africa survived a Dutch onslaught that saw them edge within six runs of victory; and before that, New Zealand got even closer—needing just three runs to cause a major shock.
Following the Netherlands match, Dutch women’s captain Denise Hannema took to Twitter to voice her pride of seeing her male counterparts come so close to victory:
The South Africans have been let off twice, but it won’t be three times lucky against the ruthless English if they perform such a way again.
Dale Steyn was the shining light for the Proteas in their first match, taking four wickets for 17 runs and instrumenting the all-important final dismissal of Ross Taylor.
While it was Imran Tahir who orchestrated the victory against the Netherlands with a 4-for-21 haul, earning him the man-of-the-match award on his birthday, per Cricket South Africa on Twitter:
But the rest of their bowlers haven’t quite come into their own as of yet, and the same has to be said for their middle-order batsmen.
Aside from Jean-Paul Duminy against the Kiwis and Hashim Amla in the Dutch nail-biter, the batsmen haven’t found the formula for explosive batting just yet, with four recorded scores in single figures against the Netherlands, per International Cricket Council.
South Africa will be without their captain Faf du Plessis on Saturday, as England Cricket tweeted:
South Africa have been hit by the suspension of captain Francois du Plessis for their must-win match against England: http://t.co/RJBcUNBz5m— England Cricket (@ECB_cricket) March 28, 2014
Together with Sri Lanka's Dinesh Chandimal, Du Plessis was punished by the ICC for the Proteas’ slow over rate, per ECB.
Without their inspirational leader, South Africa will need to dig deep if they’re to find a way to beat England. But if they can get Tahir, Steyn and Co. firing on all cylinders collectively with the ball, then they will pose a big threat to England’s semi-final chances.
According to OptaJason on Twitter, Dale Steyn is critically important to the South African bowling cause:
55 - In T20Is between Test-playing teams since Jan. 2013, only Dale Steyn has a higher % of dot balls than @mstarc56's 55%, 100+ balls. Key.— OptaJason (@OptaJason) March 28, 2014
Of Alex Hales’ 116 runs against Sri Lanka, 80 came from hitting a boundary, as OptaJim tweeted:
Eoin Morgan reached the landmark of 1000 runs in T20Is with his thrilling display against Sri Lanka, he now has 1,051 runs to his name, per ESPNcricinfo.