England face test of credentials

Collingwood must be on top of his game to beat rampant South Africa this evening

TO win in the World Twenty20 tonight at Trent Bridge England must overcome both the favourites and history. It is a potent combination of obstacles and considering that it is also too early in the tournament for South Africa to perform their usual trick of choking, it may require something extraordinary for the hosts to prevail.

England are not as bad as they appeared in the opening match of this tournament against the Netherlands, when they lost by six wickets, and probably not as good as they were made to look by Pakistan in the second when they won by 48 runs. They are somewhere in between, a work in progress without knowing quite where they are heading, at least in the shortest form of the game.

South Africa have nudged ahead of the holders India as favourites to win the competition, which in their case is always bad news. For tournament after tournament going back a decade, South Africa have made a complete porridge of proceedings when victory or qualification was being handed out on a silver platter.

Take the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007, to name only the most recent example of their tendency to head for the hills, or at least the nearest pavilion, when the heat is on. Such had been their dominance in previous matches that all South Africa required in response to India's 153 to nail a semi-final place was 126. They did not need to do anything as pressurised as winning, merely lose by no more more than 27 runs. They lost by 37 and went out.

Their estimable captain, Graeme Smith who has been doing the job for six long years now and has grown into it like a benevolent despot nurturing both his throne and his people, insisted yesterday that this is a new South Africa.

"We control our emotions very well now," he said. "We are tactically astute and calm under pressure and we would rather look at executing good skills than get into scrambles that don't really need to be there.

"Over the last few years we have travelled to pretty much every continent and won. The side has a great balance between experience and youth now. The talent is there, it is just about harnessing it now."

South Africa look the real deal. They overwhelmed Scotland in their first match and came back to beat New Zealand after being restricted to 128, the sign of a team believing it can win from any position. In the England camp, naturally, the feeling will be that Scotland, as the weakest side around, were ready to be pummeled and that being bowled out so cheaply showed that South Africa were, as usual, vulnerable.

Not that they have ever paraded these weaknesses against England. True, they were beaten 4-0 in the one-day series between the sides last summer when England responded to the novel promptings of their new captain, Kevin Pietersen, but they could never conceal the feeling that having won the Test rubber nothing else mattered. It was not that they were still hung over, they were still drunk with success.

But in major tournament play, England have not beaten South Africa since the World Cup of 1992. That was in the infamous World Cup semi-final when, pre-Duckworth Lewis, South Africa were left, after a rain delay, to score 19 runs from one ball having received two overs fewer than England. Since then, in three matches in the World Cup, two in the Champions Trophy and one in the World T20, South Africa have won at a canter each time.

An improbable win tonight in Nottingham would significantly increase England's chances of reaching the semi-finals. Their other opponents in the Super Eights are India, who are almost as pre-eminent as South Africa, and the unpredictable West Indies, who are beginning to show signs that Twenty20 suits them.

Paul Collingwood, England's captain, has not only this to negotiate but also the suspicion that he may not be an astute leader. He looked perplexed at times against Netherlands and although matters were much improved against Pakistan he did not exactly fill his audience with confidence when he said afterwards that his bowlers had virtually captained themselves. The unkind might have said that they needed to.

But Collingwood has made a considerable virtue out of being unsung and under-rated throughout his career. He can take it, as yesterday he took Shane Warne's latest comments which fell some way short of being a ringing endorsement. Warne and Collingwood have some previous in Test cricket: Warne has famously questioned Collingwood's right to the MBE he received and Collingwood has been vitriolic at times in sledging Warne, not always with notable success.

In his newspaper column yesterday, Warne said of his old adversary's captaincy: "You need to get funky at times, throw a bit of caution to the wind and show a bit of flair and imagination. I don't think that Collingwood has that. His fielding positions always seem a little basic to me."

To which Collingwood gamely replied: "Listen, I'm going to get a lot of stick off him this summer – I know that for a fact. We had a ding-dong out in the middle of the last Ashes series and I'm the kind of person who wants to compete with him. But I'll just have to grin and bear it because I can't say anything back to him now."

Twenty20 is not about sledging, however. It is about speed of thought and action, of moving fielders quickly and appropriately, of changing bowlers and knowing precisely where bowlers should be bowling. Collingwood must be at his sharpest tonight against Smith, whose side have abundant respect for him.

It may be that one of Ravi Bopara or Pietersen will have to fire for England, who will almost certainly go in with two spinners again. South Africa look strong and confident in all departments – and England's best chance may be the truism that in Twenty20 anybody can win on the night.

Super Eights: Teams and schedule

Group E: India, England, West Indies, South Africa.

Group F: Pakistan, Ireland, Sri Lanka, New Zealand.

Today: New Zealand v Ireland, England v South Africa (Trent Bridge).

Tomorrow: Pakistan v Sri Lanka, India v West Indies (Lord's).

Sat: West Indies v South Africa, New Zealand v Pakistan (The Oval).

Sun: Ireland v Sri Lanka, India v England (Lord's).

Mon: England v West Indies, Pakistan v Ireland (The Oval).

Tues: New Zealand v Sri Lanka, South Africa v India (Trent Bridge).

18 & 19 Jun: Semi-finals (Trent Bridge and The Oval).

21 Jun: Final (Lord's).

211

South Africa have recorded the tournament's highest innings total, against Scotland.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
people
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
people
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
Arts and Entertainment
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
tv'Friends' cafe will be complete with Gunther and orange couch
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone