It was always likely to be a battle between South Africans, and those who chose England as their land of milk and honey were better than those who still think the sun shines on the land of their birth. They were considerably superior, as it happened.
England won by 39 runs but it was never remotely a contest. Having virtually feasted on runs, the bulk of them provided by Kevin Pietersen, once of Durban, and Craig Kieswetter, of Taunton via Johannesburg and Cape Town, they stifled the life out of the opponents' batting before it was actually breathing. It was all but a complete Twenty20 performance.
So often there is a difference between what England say and what they mean. When they say that this time they have turned up at a major one-day tournament and mean business, they mean they will be on the first flight home, tails between legs.
What an innings Pietersen played. How unfortunate it was that it was cut off limply in its prime, and soon after victory was completed he announced he would be going home within 24 hours to join his wife Jessica for the birth of their first child. He will return in time for the semi-finals if there are no complications.
In England's first match of the second round against Pakistan he made an unbeaten 73 from 52 balls, an entertaining reminder of the player he once was. But South Africa arrived with the most vaunted attack in the tournament and Pietersen repelled them thunderously.
He made 53 from 33 balls, striking the ball as venomously as he can ever have done, pulling, driving square and straight, whipping through the leg side with that old snap of the wrist. It was the Pietersen that has been missing for too long. It came as a jolt when he swept finely to leg gully.
Anything was possible while his plundering continued. England were never quite the same after his departure – remember when that always used to be the case – but they have become a bunch of players steeped in Twenty20 lore.
England knew they had to make around 170 on the surface and did so. If Kieswetter, dropped twice, never settled, he did not overstay his welcome. Paul Collingwood flourished briefly, Eoin Morgan was similarly belligerent, Tim Bresnan did not hang around waiting. All these little cameos are important, as significant in T20 as using up time can be in a Test match. They gave England a real chance.
South Africa's strategy of letting their fast men loose backfired. The faster they bowled, the faster Pietersen and Kieswetter propelled them to the boundary during a key partnership of 95 from 63 balls. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, two of the most feared speed merchants on the planet and by common consent the most formidable new-ball pairing operating in Test cricket, were struck for 90, 60 of them in boundaries. Maybe, they were left to ponder, T20 demands different skills from Test cricket. Only the off-spin of Johan Botha was economical, a point England would remember and digest.
To come close, South Africa had to start well just as England had done in smiting their way to 65 runs in the six Powerplay overs. With Bresnan, Pontefract pure and simple, bowling a lovely line in his three overs, South Africa pushed their way to a mere 34.
Enter then Mike Yardy and Graeme Swann – whoever thought they might be a spin pairing for the ages? – and it was the end of the matter. They took 5 for 55 in eight suffocating overs.
In keeping with the general theme that anybody can win it, New Zealand had earlier revived their campaign in a pulsating finish. Their one-run victory, secured when Martin Guptill took a catch in the deep from the last ball of the game bowled by Ian Butler as Abdul Rehman struck for glory, will almost certainly mean that the champions Pakistan will be eliminated.
It was the match that an entertaining but largely ungripping tournament probably needed, low-scoring, fluctuating, in the balance to the last. New Zealand probably deserved to win because they defended their modest total of 133 for 7 so tigerishly. But England have become the outsiders to fear.
England won toss
M J Lumb lbw b Botha (4 balls) 3
†C Kieswetter c Steyn b Duminy (42 balls, 3 fours, 2 sixes) 41
K P Pietersen c Smith b Botha (33 balls, 8 fours, 1 six) 53
*P D Collingwood c Boucher b M Morkel (9 balls, 2 sixes) 14
E J G Morgan c De Villiers b Langeveldt (14 balls, 3 fours) 21
L J Wright b Langeveldt (2 balls) 0
T T Bresnan b M Morkel (13 balls, 1 four) 13
M H Yardy not out (5 balls, 1 four) 8
G P Swann not out (1 ball) 1
Extras (lb3, w7, nb4) 14
Total (7 wkts, 20 overs) 168
Fall: 1-4, 2-98, 3-113, 4-124, 5-137, 6-148, 7-162.
Did not bat: S C J Broad, R J Sidebottom.
Bowling: J Botha 4-0-15-2, D W Steyn 4-0-50-0, M Morkel 4-0-40-2, C K Langeveldt 4-0-34-2, J H Kallis 3-0-15-0, J P Duminy 1-0-11-1.
*G C Smith c Lumb b Swann (24 balls, 2 fours) 19
J H Kallis c Pietersen b Broad (13 balls, 1 six) 11
H H Gibbs c Sidebottom b Yardy (8 balls, 1 four) 8
A B de Villiers c Collingwood b Swann (9 balls) 5
J A Morkel b Yardy (2 balls) 0
J P Duminy c Yardy b Sidebottom (25 balls, 2 fours, 2 sixes) 39
†M V Boucher c Morgan b Swann (11 balls) 9
J Botha c and b Sidebottom (12 balls, 1 six) 12
D W Steyn c Morgan b Broad (6 balls) 5
M Morkel b Sidebottom (2 balls) 1
C K Langeveldt not out (3 balls) 2
Extras (b2, lb9, w6, nb1) 18
Total (19 overs) 129
Fall: 1-19, 2-34, 3-44, 4-46, 5-53, 6-90, 7-111, 8-125, 9-126.
Bowling: R J Sidebottom 4-0-23-3, T T Bresnan 3-0-14-0, S C J Broad 4-0-26-2, M H Yardy 4-0-31-2, G P Swann 4-0-24-3.
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and S J Davis (Aus).
TV Umpire: S J A Taufel (Aus). Match referee: A G Hurst (Aus).
England win by 39 runs.
Man of the Match: K P Pietersen (Eng).Reuse content