Champions Trophy: England thrash 'chokers' South Africa to reach final
Hosts England cruised into the Champions Trophy final with a seven-wicket win on Wednesday after South Africa once again underlined their reputation as cricket's 'chokers'.
Alastair's Cook men outplayed the Proteas after electing to bowl on an overcast day at the Oval where England had lost to the West Indies in the final of the same event in 2004.
South Africa were reduced to 80-8 by the 23rd over before a record ninth-wicket partnership of 95 between David Miller and Rory Kleinveldt gave the total some respectability.
But Jonathan Trott hit 82 not out and Joe Root made 48 during a 105-run stand to help England surpass the modest target in the 38th over of a disappointing semi-final.
In Sunday's final at Edgbaston, Birmingham, which will be worth $2 million for the champions, England will meet the winners of Thursday's all-Asian semi-final between India and Sri Lanka in Cardiff.
"That's the sort of performance you want in a semi-final," said Cook. "To win any tournament you need everyone to fire and we've got that so far."
South Africa, the top-ranked Test team and a formidable opponent in world cricket, have struggled to get past the semi-final stage in major one-day tournaments since winning the inaugural version of the Champions Trophy in Bangladesh in 1998.
South African captain AB de Villiers admitted the team floundered after the loss of quick wickets in the morning.
"Under pressure from the word go, we just were not good enough," said de Villiers. "There are no excuses. We had the talent to win this tournament. We just did not play well enough.
"But I am proud of Miller and Rory (Kleinveldt). They kept fighting till the end and that is what I expect from our guys."
England lost openers Cook and Ian Bell cheaply to become 41-2, but South Africa-born Trott and Root flayed the attack on a good batting wicket to steer the hosts towards victory.
Root was bowled by JP Duminy for 48 when 30 more were needed in 18 overs, leaving Trott to bring up the emphatic win by driving Robin Peterson to the cover fence.
Earlier, Miller hit an unbeaten 56 and Kleinveldt chipped in with a career-best 43 in South Africa's best one-day partnership for the ninth wicket, surpassing the 65 by Wayne Parnell and Dale Steyn against India in Jaipur in 2010.
Miller, who rose to fame with a 38-ball century in the Indian Premier League Twenyt20 tournament this year, smashed five boundaries and two sixes.
Kleinveldt, replacing the unfit Steyn, hit a six and four fours against an impressive England team for whom wicket-keeper Jos Buttler picked up six catches.
Off spinner James Tredwell, who was named man of the match, and seamer Stuart Broad claimed three wickets each, but it was pace spearhead James Anderson who did the early damage with two quick wickets.
South Africa lost both openers, Colin Ingram and Hasim Amla, off the first 10 deliveries of the match to make it 4-2.
Star batsman Amla, who hit a Test triple-century at the same venue last year, was caught behind off Steven Finn for one. Ingram was leg-before to Anderson.
Pinch-hitter Peterson smashed 30 in a third-wicket stand of 41 with Faf du Plessis before becoming Anderson's second leg-before victim in the 11th over.
Two overs later, the Proteas suffered a major blow when skipper AB de Villiers gifted his wicket with a wild drive off Broad that was edged to the wicket-keeper.
Tredwell made up for the absence of the injured Graeme Swann as he had Duminy leg-before in his second over and got du Plessis caught behind in his third.
South Africa slumped to 70-6 in the 19th over and it soon became 76-7 when Ryan McLaren was run out by an alert Trott in the slips as the batsman stepped out to drive Tredwell.
"Jimmy was outstanding which was fantastic," said Cook. "It was great to see the other guys back him up, especially tricky Tredders (Tredwell)."