CHENNAI. If there's one team that has been brilliant the advertisers of one-day cricket in this World Cup, it's England. A tie, a last-over loss to a lower-ranked team, and now an incredible six-run win over favourites South Africa, Andrew Strauss' men have done it all in the course of a week.
The skipper may have grown a few grey hairs in the process, but he knows that the ghost of Bangalore has been exorcised and his side will go to Chittagong riding high on confidence.
Even on a rank turner at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, 172 wasn't exactly a big ask for South Africa. But the England pacemen James Anderson (2/16) and Stuart Broad (4/15) produced a couple of inspired spells when it looked all dead and buried for the T20 world champions. It had been set up, though, by off-spinner Graeme Swann, who stuck to a brilliant line and removed Graeme Smith with a beauty that took the South African skipper's glove.
The decision was referred, the third umpire took an eternity to give Smith out, but when he did, England saw a glimmer of hope.
Still, with the likes of Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers in the line-up, South Africa believed that they were pretty much in the drivers' seat. The England captain threw the ball to Broad, who was coming back from an injury, but the paceman worked up a lively pace on a hot and humid day Sunday. The inconsistent bounce, too, helped him as Amla dragged one onto the stumps and South Africa started to feel the heat.
Broad, along with Anderson, got the ball to reverse as well on a worn-out track as Kallis, De Villiers and Duminy got out in quick succession. But when Dale Steyn and Morne Van Wyk got involved in a 33-run eighth-wicket partnership, the South Africans again started fancying their chances. A stumping was missed, a catch was floored, and the tension rose among the handful of English fans.
With 12 more to go, the Proteas would surely have thought that things would go their way, when Tim Bresnan removed Morne Van Wyk. Strauss changed Broad's end, brought him from the pavilion end, and the paceman removed Steyn and Morne Morkel in the same over with some excellent exhibition of reverse swing to snatch an English victory from the threshold of disaster.
It looked all so incredible, taking into account all that happened right from the first over of the day when Robin Peterson removed Strauss and Kevin Pietersen to have England at 5/2.
It was down to Jonathan Trott (52) and Ravi Bopara (60) to do the rebuilding act. Just when it seemed that a total of 225 was possible, Imran Tahir came to the party.
But then, that was just half the story as Strauss' boys scripted a brilliant comeback win four hours later.