England and South Africa will hope lady luck does not desert them when they clash in the Champions Trophy semi-final at the Oval here today.
Both sides, aiming to end a frustrating wait for a major one-day title, are fortunate to make the last four in the eight-nation tournament, saved either by the weather or their rivals’ bad luck.
South Africa sneaked a tie — and gain a valuable point — at Cardiff last week when rain forced the game to end with the West Indies on the exact Duckworth-Lewis par score of 190-6 in 26.1 overs.
If Keiron Pollard had not been dismissed off what turned out to be the last ball of the match, the West Indies would have won the game and qualified for the semi-finals after being ahead of the D/L target at that stage.
England were lucky the weather favoured them in Cardiff on Sunday as the hosts squeezed out a 10-run win over New Zealand in a game reduced to 24-overs-a-side due to rain.
Eventually, England topped group ‘A’ by virtue of a superior net run-rate over Sri Lanka, who drew level on four points following a 20-run win over defending champions Australia at the Oval on Monday.
The South African captain AB de Villiers said the only way his team can get rid of the label of ‘chokers’ was to win the tournament. “I believe all teams choke in certain situations,” he said yesterday.
“It’s just that somehow we managed to get that tag behind our names. Unless we win this tournament, people will continue to say we are chokers. But it is not something that bothers us.”
‘Close contest expected’
South African captain said he expected another close contest between two “world-class” sides. “England will be the favourites because they are playing at home and know the conditions well,” de Villers said. “But I think it is pretty much 50-50.
“It’s up to the team which rocks up with the right attitude that can take that momentum early on and run with it. We’ll be looking to do exactly that and adapt to conditions as quickly as possible. It’s going to be a great game.”
De Villers said premier fast bowler Dale Steyn, who missed two of the three games due to a side strain, was “close to 100 percent” fit, but insisted his team can win even without him.