Discerning some early turn, the field closed in, and sure enough Kevin Pietersen edged the last delivery to first slip. Two wickets were down for 3 in the first over.
Ian Bell tried to attack but bowler Peterson clung to his uppish drive. That was 15 for three in the 5th over.
Jonathan Trott and Ravi Bopara rebuilt cautiously, putting on 99 runs in just over 25 overs before Trott too hit back a catch to leg-spinner Imran Tahir, soon after raising his half-century. This signaled a steady procession that danced to Tahir’s tunes in consonance with the occasional beat of the pacers.
Even as Bopara played out a carefully strung 60, the lower order packed up softly. Seven wickets tumbled for 57 runs in less than 16 overs, as the English campaign found itself in jeopardy at 171 all out inside 46 overs.
The confident Proteas carried forward a hitherto successful campaign. Michael Yardy began proceedings for England and, not long after, the other off-spinner Graeme Swann came on.
The proactive Hashim Amla and skipper Graeme Smith raised the fifty in the 13th over. Swann got one to bite and jump, leaving everyone mesmerized. State-of-the-art technology ultimately ruled that Smith had minutely gloved the ball into wicketkeeper Matt Prior’s armpit.
Stuart Broad next took up the cudgels, grabbing two quick wickets. But AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis rebuilt steadily and at 124 for three, South Africa looked comfortable. Just another 47 runs were required in more than 18 overs.
At this point James Anderson clipped De Villiers’ off-bail, and in the next over Du Plessis ran himself out. The drama had only just begun. The umpire overturned his leg-before-wicket decision against Jean-Paul Duminy following a television review, but the persistent Anderson came back with a vengeance two balls later, knocking over his off-stump.
It was a theatrical turnaround, three wickets crashing at the same total in 11 deliveries. Then lo and behold, Peterson was caught behind at 127, another 20 balls down the innings.
Wicketkeeper Morne van Wyk and Dale Steyn battled on, carrying the score to 160. Once Van Wyk perished, Broad returned to strike the final blows. He trapped Steyn plumb leg-before and had Morne Morkel caught behind.
Broad grabbed four for 15 in 6.4 overs but Bopara bagged the man-of-the-match prize for his resilient innings on a wicket that aided bowlers of all hues. England came back from the brink in more ways than one.
Smith, on the other hand, rued, “It’s disappointing but we had difficulty to bat on this wicket. England played better cricket than us. It is a good wake-up call for us.”
There were thrills galore in Group B. Everyone was waiting with baited breath to see what lay ahead; suddenly, the tournament had come alive. The tag of favourites kept changing hands, just as predicting match results became an increasingly hazardous exercise.
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