Spinners take control as family man Pietersen heads for home

England 168-7 South Africa 129

In the perpetual vagaries of this form of the game, nothing after that is certain but England look the part and are playing it commandingly. Their victory against South Africa in their second Super 8 match on Saturday was clinical, efficient and overwhelming: an impeccable exhibition of the small game's arts.

England made 168 for seven and then bowled out South Africa for 129 in 19 overs. The bulk of their runs came from Kevin Pietersen, whose blazing 53 from 33 balls might have represented a return to the form of yore which has eluded him for six months, and Craig Kieswetter, the embryonic powerhouse whose star is in rapid ascendancy.

That they and Kieswetter's fellow opener, Michael Lumb, are all South Africans by birth and upbringing was not lost on many observing the encounter between two supposedly distinct nations. But that is that, they have all qualified, they have enhanced their eligibility by force of performance and there is no question that England's selectors, who have been guilty of crassly optimistic T20 choices in the two previous world championships, have performed with distinction this time.

Pietersen has temporarily left the squad to join his wife Jessica in London as she gives birth to the couple's first child. He intends to rejoin the team in time for the semi-finals, if there are no complications. If the baby remains as obliging for the rest of its life the Pietersens could have a perfect specimen.

To confirm their progress, England must beat New Zealand in their third and final second stage match today. The pitch at the Beausejour ground in St Lucia may not be as accommodating to their skills as that at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown proved to be but it is hardly likely to be entirely uncooperative either.

England's strategy until now has been deceptively simple: smash their way to as many runs as possible with powerful hitting in the early, powerplay overs when fielding restrictions are in place, and then stifle the life out of the opposition.

Their bowling plan has been embodied by the combination of Graeme Swann, off spinner, and Michael Yardy, slow left arm. Few could have imagined that this partnership would be instrumental in England's bid to win their first global event but here they are, more potent than any spin twins since Jim Laker and Tony Lock.

Following their three wickets against Pakistan in the previous match, they took five between them on Saturday. But it is as much the control they exert in a game based on attacking strokeplay that has helped to give England the edge. If Swann is a more conventional off-break bowler, Yardy is a left-armer who hurls it down at pace with the aim of tucking the batsmen up. It has hardly been pretty but it has been decidedly smart.

"The wicket in Barbados has been good for spin," said Swann. "If you take the pace off you get some bounce and the breeze helps as well, and they can't just flick sixes willy-nilly. Hopefully, St Lucia should be the same. I have played there before and there is always a good breeze there and, hopefully, that can work to our advantage again. I have always been an advocate of at least two spinners in Twenty20 cricket and we have struggled to nail that over the last 18 months. But Mike has come in and done a fantastic job. He's just what we need and he is more than useful batting down the order. He has been a great addition to the team."

The pair have worked assiduously on how they should bowl to particular batsmen. Both could be poster boys for the virtues of learning the game in county cricket because that is precisely what both have done before gracing the international stage.

Swann spent seven years awaiting a second chance after a brief excursion with England as a lad and Yardy, 30 this year, has been recalled for this tournament after a three-year break. Indeed Yardy, the Sussex captain, rarely bowls in first-class cricket where his role is as a batsman – he has taken 15 Championship wickets in 10 seasons.

"We go out there knowing exactly what we have to do, who to do it to and where to do it," said Swann. "People keep talking about executing plans, that's all it is. You know where to bowl at different batsmen and you make sure you do it.

"Mike has done the hard yards in the county game to get here, like I had to do, and he knows his own game back-to-front now. And that shows when he's bowling – if he does go for a couple of boundaries he is more than happy to run up and bowl the ball as if nothing has happened."

There is undoubtedly a feel-good factor about England and, while Pietersen's absence will throw the team out of kilter, Ravi Bopara will be a lively replacement. They are not favourites, but they have become fancied outsiders. There is one ever present factor they have to guard against, one that has dogged English cricket forever. Australia are also looking menacing.

SCOREBOARD: ENGLAND v SOUTH AFRICA

Kensington Oval England (2pts) beat South Africa (0pts) by 39 runs

England won toss

ENGLAND

......... Runs......... 6s......... 4s......... Bls

M J Lumb lbw b Botha......... 3......... 0......... 0......... 4

†C Kieswetter c Steyn b Duminy......... 41......... 2......... 3......... 42

K P Pietersen c Smith b Botha......... 53......... 1......... 8......... 33

*P D Collingwood c Boucher b Morkel......... 14......... 2......... 0......... 9

E J G Morgan c de Villiers b Langeveldt......... 21......... 0......... 3......... 14

L J Wright b Langeveldt......... 0......... 0......... 0......... 2

T T Bresnan b Morkel......... 13......... 0......... 1......... 13

M H Yardy not out......... 8......... 0......... 1......... 5

G P Swann not out......... 1......... 0......... 0......... 1

Extras (lb 3, w 7, nb 4)......... 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 Duminy 1-0-11-1.

SOUTH AFRICA

......... Runs......... 6s......... 4s......... Bls

*G C Smith c Lumb b Swann......... 19......... 0......... 2......... 24

J H Kallis c Pietersen b Broad......... 11......... 1......... 0......... 13

H H Gibbs c Sidebottom b Yardy......... 8......... 0......... 1......... 8

A B de Villiers c Collingwood b Swann......... 5......... 0......... 0......... 9

J A Morkel b Yardy......... 0......... 0......... 0......... 2

J Duminy c Yardy b Sidebottom......... 39......... 2......... 2......... 25

†M V Boucher c Morgan b Swann......... 9......... 0......... 0......... 11

J Botha c & b Sidebottom......... 12......... 1......... 0......... 12

D W Steyn c Morgan b Broad......... 5......... 0......... 0......... 6

M Morkel b Sidebottom......... 1......... 0......... 0......... 2

C K Langeveldt not out......... 2......... 0......... 0......... 3

Extras (b 2,lb 9, w 6, nb 1)......... 18

Total (19 overs)......... 129

Fall: 1-19, 2-34, 3-44, 4-46, 5-53, 6-90, 7-111, 8-125, 9-126, 10-129.

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: A S Dar (Pak) & S J Davis (Aus).

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