England outclassed by Kallis

England 111 South Africa 114-3 (South Africa win by seven wickets)

According to constant first-hand testimony, the atmosphere is wonderful in the England dressing room. To hear the players describe it is to conjure up visions of this other Eden and a demi-paradise.

This is as well because the host nation in the World Twenty20 will need all the team spirit they can cling to their collective bosom after last night's mauling at the hands of South Africa. Team spirit indeed may be the only asset England possess because they appeared to have little else to offer in their opening match of the tournament's Super Eights stage.

South Africa were on a different plane of accomplishment and efficiency. It was not so much that a different England emerged after the face-saving victory against Pakistan which kept them in the tournament, it was that the same England came out and met entirely different opposition. What happened at The Oval on Sunday had been a false portent.

The course of the match was decided as early as the first over when England lost their first wicket. By the sixth they had lost three and although there followed a minor recovery they then lost their last seven wickets for 33 runs in 7.3 overs. It was England's lowest total in their 18 official T20 matches, 10 runs below the miserable 121 they attained in Trinidad a mere three matches previously.

They were beaten by seven wickets and South Africa, with no need to rush and perhaps enjoying a work-out in the Nottinghamshire sunshine, had 10 balls to spare. Had they been chasing a total of, say 140, it is probable that they would still have had a similar capacity in hand.

"It's been very much a rollercoaster ride in the last week," said Paul Collingwood, England's captain. "We were beaten by a side who really set the example in the field and took some diving catches and really put a lot of pressure on our batsmen. We couldn't get a partnership going to get us up to a total we could defend.

"We'll have to regroup again like we did last week after Holland. We'll keep playing positive because that's the only way we're going to win this tournament," Collingwood added.

Winning the tournament is a fanciful idea. Living in a demi-paradise must have affected his judgement. It was mildly embarrassing to observe because it was patently obvious that one team had got the hang of what to do and the other had not. South Africa bowled with skill and verve and they fielded with panache and conviction.

England will claim to be short of experience in the vaunted Indian Premier League but plenty of them have played plenty of matches in the original domestic version. Players or selectors could be accused of learning little.

Of the England team that played last night seven had been in the team which were well beaten by South Africa in the inaugural Twenty20 two years ago and it might have been eight had Andrew Flintoff been available. Maybe they are the best available, maybe not. But what have they learnt? How to lose gracefully to powerful opposition may be the sum of it.

England chose to bat and on a pitch which had been used earlier in the day would have wished to set an innings of somewhere around 150. Ravi Bopara chopped a slower ball from Dale Steyn on to his stumps in the first over, in the second Luke Wright edged behind his third optimistic drive of the over. Wright's rustic swinging has severe limitations.

Kevin Pietersen played some big shots but was then held by Roelof van der Merwe diving high to his left at mid on. Owais Shah and Collingwood ensured that utter humiliation did not ensue but the crowd made their feelings known and launched into some concerted booing at their circumspection.

There came a time when the big shots had to come and while Shah prospered with a brief flurry of boundaries Collingwood perished at his first attempt. Everything that England tried, South Africa blocked. When Jacques Kallis began bowling at 90mph at the age of 33, it was clear that England were in a different league.

The tail folded in the face of this and it was never a contest thereafter. South Africa took no risks because they did not have to take risks. Kallis, reinvented as a T20 opener, made his 57 from 49 balls, sharing a walk in the park partnership of 74 with Herschelle Gibbs.

There was one minor triumph for England when Adil Rashid had A B De Villiers, perhaps the best batsman in the world at present, caught at slip. But it was as uplifting as finding the radio still works after you have crashed the car. England play India on Sunday. If the atmosphere is that happy they might want to stay in the dressing room.

*In yesterday's early game at Trent Bridge, New Zealand thrashed Ireland by 83 runs. Aaron Redmond plundered 63 from 30 balls as the Kiwis made 198 for 5 and the Irish were all out for 115 with 20 balls left.

Super Eights: Teams and schedule

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

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

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

Tomorrow: 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).

12

The number of boundaries that England scored at Trent Bridge yesterday.

Ashes watch

26 days to go:

England's latest addition, John Buchanan, lost Australia the 2005 Ashes says Stuart MacGill. "Troy Cooley won England the Ashes and John Buchanan lost it for us," he said.

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