Alastair Cook believes home support will continue to be an advantage for England in tomorrow’s Champions Trophy semi-final at The Oval.
The hosts topped Group A with two wins from three, thanks in part to the backing of the English and Welsh crowds, and are now one victory from a place in Sunday’s final at Edgbaston.
England benefited from strong home support to see off Australia by 48 runs at Edgbaston in their opening game and, although they then lost to Sri Lanka by seven wickets at The Oval, Cook’s side rallied to defeat New Zealand by 10 runs in a 24-over match at Cardiff Wales Stadium.
Cook, pictured, does not see the potential pressure of playing in front of a home crowd a hindrance, saying: “We have an amazing support at home. We’re used to playing in front of these big crowds.
“We wouldn’t swap the support we’ve had in this tournament or the support we get when we’re at home or abroad to anyone. So we’re very lucky as a side to have that support and I don’t see it at all as a hindrance.”
Sunday’s meeting with the Black Caps at Cardiff was must-win for England, the result showing their ability to deliver when it matters.
“Obviously, I felt Cardiff was a good test to see where we were as a side in terms of having to deliver under pressure, having to win the game to go through pretty much,” Cook added.
“We knew that was the case, and when it's such a shortened game, you can get taken away from what your principles are, what you're meant to be doing.
“You can get distracted from it in terms of thinking, well, I just need to whack it straightaway. How calm we were both with bat and ball was very key.
“But what impressed me most about that was the way the lads delivered under pressure, and if we're going to go far in this tournament and obviously further down the line, we're going to have to do that. That was a good step for us.”
England trained this afternoon without Tim Bresnan, who was with his wife in Yorkshire awaiting the imminent birth of their first child.
The hosts will make a late call on the fitness of Graeme Swann, whose back problem has ruled him out of two of their three group games. Should Swann not be fit, Cook has faith in the reliable James Tredwell to again be his specialist spinner.
“It’s clearly a concern for us,” Cook said of Swann’s injury. ”We haven’t ruled him out totally for this game. We’re going to have to see how he trains today and see how he pulls up tomorrow.
“There’s one thing for certain, he won’t be risked. There is no point in doing that for the fact that Tredders is an exceptional bowler as well. We’re very lucky in that department. We might be very cautious with him because it seems very sensible.”
Although South Africa are without Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, they will have fellow key batsman Hashim Amla who hit a career-best 311 not out in a Test at The Oval last year.
“He’s a massive player for them, isn’t he? He’s a very good player,” Cook continued. “Obviously we’ve seen that first hand last year in the one-dayers and the Test match as well.
“He’s a danger man for them. He’s one of their key players. If we can strike early with the two new balls, it gives us that opportunity to do that (get Amla out).
“Our bowlers have bowled extremely well in those first 10 overs in this Champions Trophy so far and we’re going to have to do that this time against South Africa.
“We know he’s a fantastic player but as all players are vulnerable early we have to try to strike early. And if he gets in it’s a danger to us. He’s certainly a key man but if we can get him out that does put pressure on other players in their side.”