CricInfo at World Cup 1999
[The ICC Cricket World Cup - England 1999]

England v South Africa, 22 May 1999

by Trevor Chesterfield

London - South Africa are more focused about their all-important game against England at The Oval tomorrow than they are bothered about the umpiring blunders which marred their World Cup victory over Sri Lanka at Northampton on Wednesday.

As both sides prepare for Group A supremacy the favourites South Africa shrugged off the inconsistency and their comprehensive victory over Sri Lanka, whose batting this tournament has been as tarnished as their inability to retain the spark and flair which earned them the crown three years ago.

There has been no wallowing in sort of self-indulgence which some sides would be inclined to do had they been on the receiving end and 122 for eight: the whinge and whine is not for Hansie Cronje’s side. And there are not looking for excuses by pointing a finger at the eccentricities of TV monitor errors accompanying judgement made by the guy manning the screen.

He is apt to make as many errors as would the others whose names are whispered as ‘Stevie Wonder’ and ‘Ray Charles’ the names of two famous blind singers. Little wonder at the look of confusion worn by Shaun Pollock’s on being given out.

Cronje and the rest of the side, including Woolmer have been through it often enough. Tombstones around their neck: Darrel Hair, Steve Dunne, Javed Akthar... Peter Willey

Cronje and Co have moved on from Northampton and the Sri Lanka game. There are no ‘ifs’ no ‘buts’ for them no outward recriminatory remarks in their post mortems of a day’s performance.

South Africa had a light workout yesterday and will concentrate more on the third match of the series with a more concentrated practice yet the view the side which took the field against Sri Lanka is the best balanced team they have selected since they have been here.

And Steve Elworthy’s bowling was as tight and as good as anything Allan Donald or Shaun Pollock delivered. At one stage he was bowling to a seven/two field which is a rare enough sight in a Test match let alone a limited-overs international.

It says much for Cronje’s confidence in the tall Northerns bowler’s ability to keep a tight and controlled line to give him only two men on the leg side. Even the argument that Jacques Kallis and Pollock had done all the hard work so he would not be under serious pressure is not convincing.

For Sri Lanka, however, tomorrow is also the sort of D Day which their captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, admitted would create to sort of pressure they do not really need. They play Zimbabwe at New Road in Worcester and defeat would almost certainly see the departure of the title-holders.

The Sri Lanka manager, Duleep Mendis, however, has been more critical. Before Northampton he was critical of the standard of batting against England at Lord’s a week ago. After the defeat on Wednesday he was scathing in his comments. And for a man who has ‘been there, done that and scored the runs to prove it’ routine, Mendis was equally damning.

"We face the ultimate humiliation if we lose to Zimbabwe," he said. "It’s absurd if they think that bowlers can bat for them as well as take the wickets. Our performance against South Africa was disgraceful; it lacked character and there were too many poor shots."

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