SOUTH Africa are the weakest of the four sides left in the Champions Trophy, so I’m confident England will progress to the final today.
England’s two group wins – over Australia at Edgbaston and New Zealand in Cardiff – came in matches where conditions allowed bowlers to come to the fore.
That scenario looks unlikely to be repeated at the batting-friendly Oval, where Alastair Cook’s men were beaten by Sri Lanka, but the hosts still look better equipped to triumph on a flat pitch than South Africa.
Big-hitting Proteas stars such as Hashim Amla and AB De Villiers command respect, of course, but the team boast nothing at all in the spin department and generally seem short on variation.
Should England prevail, they can look forward to playing Sunday’s final at Edgbaston, where the movement on offer to bowlers should hugely enhance their chances of beating India or Sri Lanka, who clash tomorrow in Cardiff.
Whoever bats first in the final will have a major advantage.
One thing England have lacked so far in this competition is a long opening partnership. Ian Bell has not played as well as he can, with 20 and 10 in his last two innings.
He has to go on and I’d hope that he and Cook could dominate the South African attack today in what seems certain to be a high-scoring encounter.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer who has also been captain and chairman of Warwickshire.