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South Africa relaxed and ready

Martin Gough | 19:13 UK time, Monday, 23 April 2007

Martin GoughSt Lucia - After all the grumbles about airlines so far in the World Cup, I am pleased to report my luggage turned up on schedule after the flight from Barbados. The trouble was, I wasn’t with it.

The charter plane that was supposed to be taking us, and the South Africa team, was inexplicably delayed for almost two hours but when we finally boarded we were told what had happened.

The same plane had been used to ferry Australia (and my bags) to St Lucia, leaving South Africa’s players – all kitted out in team polo shirts and khaki shorts – kicking their heels in the departure lounge.

It has been a difficult tournament for Graeme Smith’s side, who came under heavy fire following their loss to Australia in St Kitts, suffered a massive upset at the hands of Bangladesh in Guyana, then had to deal with an exposé of their post-match drinking in Grenada.

Victory over England, though, followed by a week of taking it easy at the Barbados Hilton and surrounds, seems to have lifted their collective mood massively.

They made a conscious effort to quell the comparisons to the heart-breaking World Cup semi-final of 1999 by offering the four remaining players – Shaun Pollock, Mark Boucher, Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis – to the media on Saturday.

It didn’t help the media that the news conference took place at around the same time Brian Lara came out to bat for the last time in international cricket but the players seem now to have put the comparisons behind them.

They are now safely ensconced in the same hotel from which Andrew Flintoff launched his pedalo all of six weeks ago.

And, should they win on Wednesday, they may be tempted to try the new cocktail doing the rounds, called The Flintoff and featuring rum and pineapple juice.

While the rest of the World Cup sides take to the skies, England have remained grounded as flights back to the UK are apparently full until Tuesday.

Before heading to the golf course, though, they bade farewell to their WAGs – Jessica Taylor, ex of Liberty X and current of Kevin Pietersen, was among a group at the airport.

And they gave a cheery wave to Stuart Broad, whose reward for hitting the winning runs at a sweltering Kensington Oval on Saturday is a place in the Leicestershire side to face Somerset at Grace Road on Wednesday.

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Good Luck to the South Africans: As Mr. Agnew points out in his column, if they can bat first and put pressure on the Australian fielding by taking control of the situation, then they may be able to force the Australians to make mistakes. I think that it will be very hard for South Africa to do this though (the ground is bigger than St Kitt's and Nevis where they met in the group stages) and any kind of loss of early wickets could prove fatal; their biggest batsman, Graeme Smith, is right at the top of the order, where he wll be subject to the full force of the Australian opening bowlers with the new ball, and if he goes cheaply, then it may be beyond the rest of the batting order to marshal the kind of score that will allow the South Africans bowlers to really pressurise Hayden, Ponting, and all the rest. If Smith goes early, I am afraid that an Australian victory will be on the cards- presupposing that the Australians don't win the toss, bat first, and put South Africa out of the game, anyway, with Hogg to bowl second on a used pitch.

By the way: For all the England supporters out there who are posting that 'If England had only beaten Sri Lanka, then England would now be in the semis'.
*Look at the points table*
Australia 14 points (2.5 RR)
Sri Lanka 10 points (1.48 RR)
New Zealand 10 points (0.25 RR)
South Africa 8 points (0.31 RR)
England 6 points (-0.39 RR)
West Indies 4 points (-0.57 RR)
Bangladesh 2 points (-1.51 RR)
Ireland 2 points (-1.73 RR)

If Bopara had hit that last ball for four instead of being bowled, Sri Lanka still would have gone through on 8 points, only in third place, behind New Zealand, instead of second, and England would still have been massively behind South Africa on Run Rate. England would have needed to have completely massacred Sri Lanka in that game to have gone through on Run Rate, assuming all the other matches had gone exactly the same way. England beating New Zealand by a convincing margin in their group game would have offered the most favourable chance to go through IF everything else had turned out the same way.

This world cup is over for England. Either fatigue from the hectic schedule, or too little form/match experience for the players, killed any realistic hopes that they could have had. Hopefully the survivors of this one day side will come out of this stronger for their experience. This was a considerable improvement on the last World Cup, however, where they didn't even reach the 'super sixes' stage, and with a new coach, they must now look to the future and hopefully making the semi-finals (or even finals!) on the Indian sub-continent.

  • 2.
  • At 09:47 PM on 23 Apr 2007,
  • Martin Gough wrote:

There was a nice line from Matthew Hayden at his afternoon news conference, when told what Graeme Smith had said about a weight being lifted from South Africa's shoulders in qualifying.

"That's nice for Graeme," he said. "But we'll see about that come the first ball of the World Cup semi-final."

Game on!

  • 3.
  • At 10:17 PM on 23 Apr 2007,
  • bilal khan wrote:

I would like to say some thing about great bobs murder. I think this inquiry is gonna go no where. I think the brits and the pakistanis should have been called for help early if they wanted result. A country so poor and with no resouses would not have been able to do it. USA was just next they should have called american experts to help, this was not a matter of pride it was some body dead in the room and probably killed.
Now with so much time wasted woolmer will be a mistry. If there is a local involvement then Mr Mark is hiding it because he tried every one else to blam. Cause it will bring shame to the land of so many "Sir".
Any way the point is such a high profile murder would have happened with alot of care by those who involved, it is pathatic and jamaicans are to blame. They were supposed to have every point secured so that these kind of things dont happen.
Shame on you West Endies.

  • 4.
  • At 11:01 PM on 23 Apr 2007,
  • Mohamed (Breado) wrote:

It has been 38 days (March 17th) since Pakistan was eliminated from the WC.

One cannot blame the South Africans for partying, etc. The schedule is such that some teams would have 3 days rest between matches on and others would only have 2 days rest for a couple of matches and then have the next 7 days off. West Indies in particular had a brutal stretch. They once played 3 days in a row because of rain delay, then spent the next day travelling to Guyana and with only one day's rest played Sri Lanka. Then they had about 9 days off. Australia probably benefited best from the scheduling, They played on March 14th, 18th, 24th, 27th, 31st, April 8th, 13th, 16th and 20th. No less than 3 days off between any matches.

My point is that with no equity in the schedule, some teams will lose focus or just get plain tired and others liek Australia would always be fresh and ready.

So if the boys want some R&R, I say let them be. The WC is too long and it seems to just drag on and on.

By the way Marty, just be glad that you were not flying British Airways. Did you hear about the flight from India that was delayed and passengers were sent to a nearby hotel and with had to share not only a room but a double size bed with strangers?


  • 5.
  • At 05:33 AM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Maneesh wrote:

They look relaxed because they know they are going to win.

  • 6.
  • At 09:32 AM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Ernie Els wrote:

The day the Aussie boys beat the Proteas in this World Cup semi is the day Scotty or any of those Aussie pretenders beats me to win the Open - ie: never. Roll on the match and fire up the brai boys, the Aussies will be crying into their warm VB after this one's over I can tell you now.

the "Aussie boys" better bloody well win iv got big BIG BIG money riding on them. iv bin told its a very very very good bet !!!!!!!!

  • 8.
  • At 12:31 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Desmond Persaud wrote:

Good point, Bilal.
Yes, the real story at CWIC is Big Bob's murder. And the best performance by any team in the competition is that by the ICC's lawyers in getting the inquest postponed till after the event is over and all the media interest has gone away.

  • 9.
  • At 12:40 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Cateyes wrote:

I was looking forward to your comments here in St. Lucia. Hope you help yourself with one of The Flintoff and leave here on a high note.

This is going to be a very interested match.

  • 10.
  • At 01:23 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Pablo wrote:

One question:

What have South Africa done to suggest they can beat Australia?

The lost to Balngladesh and succumbed meekly to Oz

  • 11.
  • At 01:33 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Thomas wrote:

Ernie Els

Nice try buddy, somehow i doubt if Ernie has time for Martin Gough's blogs. He's probably overseas somewhere playing a major tournament but as a fellow saffer i love your patriotism.

  • 12.
  • At 01:42 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • lehlohonolo wrote:

It's going to be a cracker of a game, two explosive batting line-ups. I think SA have a belief that they can compete with the Aussies and thats the sort of attitude one wants to see in a team. It's funny how everyone thinks the Aussies are going to steamroll the South Africans, but the Aussie team has been quite and maybe they know they are in for a competitive match. SA/Aus matches have always been exciting and I don't think tomorrow will be any different.

  • 13.
  • At 02:12 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Zee wrote:

Truth be told aussies hav a psychological adv over th proteas.Now for australia to win the semi.. just hav to stick to the basics and constantly apply fierce pressure to th proteas and then they'll crack..For proteas to win they first hav to overcome the pyschological hurdle..knowing the South Africans thats a task on its own. I hope that they keep it plain and simple and not try out new things or overboard tactics..But I sure pray that they make a biltong out of the aussies

  • 14.
  • At 03:30 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • phil wrote:

Being a South African doing a internship in Atlanta taking my first day off to watch the game in a local british bar come BOYS show me the FINAL!

Revenge is sweet!

  • 15.
  • At 03:49 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • william beeby wrote:

i`d like to see south africa beat the aussies in the semi but i do seriously doubt it. i am an england supporter and if england are not involved i will follow the underdogs which in this case is south africa as the aussies are best test match team and ODI team as well.south africa are not too far behind them though and its a pity this semi is not the actual final really. new zealand will win the other semi so it will be aussies verus kiwis in the final and aussies to win by 50 runs.

bill beeby dover in kent , uk. aged 54.
looking forward to the west indies series as england have a chance against them...

  • 16.
  • At 03:55 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • oliver brett (BBC Sport) wrote:

An update on Stuart Broad. He has a "minor injury" and will not play his first game for the Foxes until April 29.

  • 17.
  • At 04:31 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • mark wrote:

I am (South African) resident in Hamburg, Germany and have watched almost every match so far at my local Scottish(!) pub on Skysports. Yesterday I watched the dvd of that classic WR breaking match at the Wanderers. I believe the Ausies will be very mindfull of that amazing day tomorrow.

  • 18.
  • At 05:19 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Ernie Els wrote:

Hey Thomas (1.33pm) - disappointed you doubt my bona fides, yes it is me, the Big Easy. Sitting at home in Wentworth watching the game after flying in overnight from China and the BMW tournament. Sitting here with a cold one with the SL vs NZ game on the tele, as anyone knows I'm a HUGE sports fan. Today is merely a prelude for tomorrow, watch my Saffer mates walk all over those Aussie boys tomorrow, I can tell you they'll be squealing for mercy by game's end, Smithy and the boys will do the business mark my words !

  • 19.
  • At 07:29 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Roomeatthetop wrote:

Our deepest fear
is not that we are inadequate

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure

It is our light, not our darkness
that most frightens us

We ask ourselves
"Who am I to be so brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?"

Actually who are you not to be?
You are a child of God

Your playing small doesnt serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us

Its not just in some of us;
Its in everyone

And as we let our light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same

As we are liberated from our fear
Our presence automatically liberates others

Nelson Mandela's inaugral speech 1994

  • 20.
  • At 07:37 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Roomeatthetop wrote:

Mr Els, if that is you, Im a big fan. You are a gentleman and a credit to your sport and I agree. Smithys boys can do the business tomorrow.

  • 21.
  • At 09:15 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Paul Grunill -BBC Sport wrote:

Mr Els, I wish it was really you because if South Africa make the final, we'd love to interview you about that achievement and your love of cricket. With all due respect, however, your way of expressing yourself does appear to have changed since I sat in on various interviews you gave at past Open championships.

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