views

England charge into last four in a tale of cramp and style

CAPTAIN Andrew Strauss hailed a best-ever batting display as England waltzed into the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy against all odds at the expense of hosts South Africa.<br /><br />Strauss&rsquo; men produced a batting masterclass in smashing the No1-ranked Proteas for a massive 323-8 &ndash; their sixth highest 50-over total of all-time.<br /><br />Man-of-the-match Owais Shah (98) and Paul Collingwood (82) shared a record-breaking third-wicket partnership of 163, while young starlet Eoin Morgan smashed 67 off just 34 balls.<br /><br />Not even a career-best 141 from captain Graeme Smith could save South Africa, who fell 12 runs short of the 313 needed to avoid an embarrassing elimination from the competition. <br /><br />Smith was also left annoyed by a decision from Strauss not to allow him a runner late in the innings after the skipper was treated for cramp.<br /><br />But while Smith licked his wounds, Strauss was left praising his batting attack for a performance that sealed qualification regardless of tomorrow&rsquo;s final Group B match against New Zealand.<br /><br />&ldquo;I think it was the best I&rsquo;ve ever seen an England side bat, the way the guys went about playing their shots,&rdquo; the South African-born skipper said. <br /><br />&ldquo;The way Owais played a gem of a knock, it was incredible the number of sixes he hit. Paul came in and you saw the way he played the spinners and then Eoin came in at the end and showed just what he can do.&rdquo;<br /><br />Of the decision to refuse Smith a runner, Strauss added: &ldquo;When you&rsquo;ve got a hundred you get tired and we didn&rsquo;t feel it was one of those things where we would give him a runner.&rdquo;<br /><br />Angry Smith hit back and suggested Strauss would regret his decision, adding: &ldquo;Players have got runners for cramp in the past. The thing I have learned from this game is that the world is round and it is going to come back somewhere in his captaincy.<br /><br />&ldquo;It will be interesting to see how he handles it if it happens again. It was a crucial part of the game, I had been on the field for 95 overs and had cramped up.&rdquo;<br /><br />New Zealand&rsquo;s shock 38-run victory over Sri Lanka earlier in the day gave the Proteas a target of 313 to avoid slipping below the Sri Lankans in the group and out of the tournament.<br /><br />But while Smith went from strength to strength, his batting partners tumbled one by one with only AB de Villiers (36) offering any kind of support. <br /><br />Not for the first time, James Anderson bowled tremendously for his 3-42, while Stuart Broad chipped in with 3-67 as England silenced the 16,800 crowd on their way to a famous win.