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

England succumb to their own folly
Trevor Chesterfield - 22 May 1999

LONDON - Those old enough to remember Sir Leonard Hutton's describing England 'forever in ascendancy' would have cringed at The Oval as they surrendered pitifully at the Oval today

They were methodically destroyed by the disciplined professionalism of a South Africa side which has confirmed their place as the bookies favourites to mount the victory dais at Lord's on June 20. And just to rub it in, it was the Safs 10th victory in the last 12 One Day International matches against England.

Yet for those who watched England being humbled at the venue 'Our Len' made forever famous with his 364 against Australia in 1938, the need for English batsmen of character and quality was never more evident. It was not a performance the home crowd will remember with any sort of pride.

Yet there was always the impression that this South African side, having taken a firm grip of the game by as early as the 15th over, squeezed hard. They bowled with skill, care and attention, they fielded with all the efficiency of a well-drilled platoon, and looked as accomplished as they are likely to be.

England for their part lacked the fight to defend their reputation as one of the sides worth a second look and a 5 flutter. Chasing a mere 226 to win they were reduced to 45 for five in the 18th over and failed to recover. Losing their captain Alec Stewart and Nasser Hussain in rapid succession seemed to do more than knock over the top order. Jacques Kallis's swing and seam which accounted for both wickets had torn a gaping hole in their confidence.

In the end they were bowled out for 103 losing by 122 runs off the last ball of the 41st over and after Stewart had won the toss and felt giving his bowlers first use of the conditions the wiser of the two options.

Yet when it came to England's turn, there seemed to be no resolve at all on a pitch which was a lot slower than we had been led to believe and where run-scoring at best was a lot of hard work unless you were prepared to graft. And as the wickets fell the run rate required started its rapid climb, disappearing into a decidedly chilly windswept late English afternoon. The ironic cheer when they passed their lowest limited international total summed up their dismal batting.

The score of 103 is, however, England's lowest total against South Africa: 12 run shy of their previous lowest total, not that this statistical trivia is as memorable as some of the South Africa bowling figures. Allan Donald returning World Cup best figures of four for 17 and Steve Elworthy maintaining his economy rate was of more interest.

Donald's control was as remarkable as his aggressiveness. It showed the resolve of a world class bowler picking off the opposition and enjoying what he was doing and how he was doing it. And with the fielding of the quality which must continue to be an embarrassment for the other sides, Jonty Rhodes' catching was again the quality you would expect. Gibbs looked the part of a limited-overs opener and Gary Kirsten, more circumspect after two early failures knuckled down and used his feet nicely, working the ball sweetly into the gaps.

By the time Klusener arrived to repair the innings, which has slipped to 168 for seven with Mark Boucher, South Africa looked more at ease with their performance.

England can, however, feel far happier about their bowling and fielding efforts during an innings of two strict compartments with the scoreline of 111 after 25 overs reflecting a final total of 225 for seven wickets. It was, as Cronje pointed out, about 25 runs short of what South Africa would have liked.

While Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten put South Africa onto a solid footing with 73 after 15 overs and 110 after 23, the momentum slipped and skidded along as the England bowlers, notably Alan Mullally, Darren Gough and Mark Ealham bowled the sort of line and length which forced South Africa to work hard for their runs.

Mullally's delivery which got rid of Kallis is one the Leicestershire left-arm seamer would like to dream about for the rest of the tournament. Gough too bowled with control. But England's decision to go with Angus Fraser and Robert Croft in the attack instead of Ian Austin and Adam Hollioake was a surprise and one they may come to regret.

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