By Anand Vasu in Chittagong
Alex Hales has injected new life into the camp, with the team set to face a South African side still searching for a clear plan
Following Alex Hales’s cracking century, the first by an England players in Twenty20 Internationals, and its rousing chase of a big total against Sri Lanka, a team that had endured a difficult winter and was traditionally not at its best in the subcontinent, appears transformed. All of a sudden, England is thinking about a place in the semifinals and beyond.
And in its way is South Africa, a team that is yet to figure out its best playing XI, batting line-up or approach to the shortest version of the game. South Africa's performance against The Netherlands, where defeat loomed as a real prospect before the opposition buckled, was patchy at best.
When the Super10s began, Sri Lanka was the team to beat in Group 1, and it sits at the top of the points table thanks to a superior net run-rate, but England showed that Dinesh Chandimal’s men could be well beaten, Lasith Malinga or not. The group is suddenly wide open, and any self-doubt in the England camp has evaporated ahead of its Saturday (March 29) encounter against South Africa.
“The confidence and belief we will get from that win, going into our final two group games is going to be huge,” said Stuart Broad, the captain. “It’s in our hands a little bit. We have got the advantage of having a few games under the lights here. Conditions are extremely different from anything we’ve had before. South Africa haven’t played under the lights yet and we can use our experience to our advantage.”
For Broad, the crucial factor in the turnaround has been getting some momentum going. “We know what these tournaments are like. If you can get on a run, if you can get a few guys going, you can win these tournaments – and it’s not out of our grasp,” said Broad, who did not allow his team to get ahead of itself. “South Africa probably haven’t fired as you would expect in this tournament so far with the danger they’ve got, but they’ve had key men getting them over the line.”
In the game against New Zealand it was JP Duminy who did the bulk of the batting, crashing his way to 86, while Dale Steyn bowled an inspired spell. Against The Netherlands, Hashim Amla sparked the batting while Imran Tahir celebrated his 35th birthday with a game-changing four-wicket bag.
“‘Steyn is bowling fantastically well in taking wickets. You’ve got the danger men of Amla and de Villiers. We know how big a wickets those guys will be, and we might have similar plans for Steyn as we had for Malinga. We will be smart about it in on Saturday,” said Broad. “It’s an exciting place to be. With the ball we haven’t really fired yet, but I have a lot of confidence we can do that. We’re very aware of South Africa’s danger men but if we do what we did against Sri Lanka we will win that game.”
South Africa need the win as much as England, for the two teams are likely to be joined by New Zealand on four points, should it play to form and get past The Netherlands in the afternoon game on Saturday. But, more than just winning to get the points on the board, Faf du Plessis and his men need to convince themselves that they have a clear plan that can take them forward in the tournament.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers (wk), JP Duminy, Beuran Hendricks, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
England: Stuart Broad (capt), Michael Lumb, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Moeen Ali, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Luke Wright, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Tim Bresnan, Jade Dernback, James Tredwell, Stephen Parry, Craig Kieswetter.