England freedom delights Strauss
Captain Andrew Strauss saluted England’s finest batting display in living memory after they booked their place in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy with victory over South Africa.
England racked up 323 for eight at Centurion – their sixth highest total in 50-over cricket – on the back of a fine 98 from Owais Shah, Paul Collingwood’s 82 and Eoin Morgan’s 67 off just 34 balls.
Shah and Morgan were responsible for 11 of the record 12 sixes struck by England, setting up a 22-run win which also ended South Africa’s interest in the competition.
"That batting performance was the best I can ever remember from England,” said Strauss, whose team top Group B ahead of tomorrow’s encounter with New Zealand.
"Obviously we were pretty down in confidence after the Australian one-day series," he added, referring to the recent 6-1 NatWest Series defeat on home soil.
"One of the things we have tried to do here is go out and try to show people what we can do rather than die wondering and that is what has come out in both games we've played.”
Strauss also demonstrated his ruthless side during South Africa’s sterling pursuit, which was built around opposite number Graeme Smith’s magnificent 141.
Just two days after calling Angelo Mathews back following a collision with Graham Onions which ended with him being run out, Strauss refused Smith a runner when he was suffering from cramp late in his innings.
South Africa required 69 runs from the final six overs with five wickets in hand when Smith's request - with AB de Villiers striding to the middle - was turned down by Strauss and umpires Steve Davis and Tony Hill.
"He asked me for a runner because he was cramping. The umpires were not particularly keen to give him one, and I felt at the end of a long game when you have had a long innings you are going to be tired," said Strauss.
"That is one of the things that happens and cramping to a certain extent is a preparation thing and to a certain extent a conditioning thing.
"I didn't feel he merited having a runner at that stage. My personal view is you shouldn't get a runner for cramps full stop."
Smith, however, who almost single-handedly kept South Africa in the hunt before holing out in the 47th over – the next highest contribution was AB de Villiers’ 36 – was left angered by Strauss' decision, just a month shy of England's tour here.
Stop-gap wicketkeeper Morgan ran out Albie Morkel off the next ball, reducing South Africa to 255 for six and leaving Smith with only the tail for company.
"From my perspective it seemed a little bit inconsistent," said Smith. "Players have got runners for cramp in the past and there needs to be a level of consistency there.
"The thing I have learned from this game is that the world is round and it is going to come back somewhere in his captaincy.
"It will be interesting to see how he handles it, if it happens again. It was a crucial part of the game; I had been on the field for 95 overs."
The hosts, therefore, were once again eliminated from yet another global tournament when well fancied to do well.
"It's disappointing to play a knock like that and not get over the line," said Smith.
"We wanted to leave ourselves 85-90 off the last 10 with the powerplay included and we were close to that."
Strauss was fined 10% of his match fee for England’s slow over-rate, while the rest of the team were hit with 5% fines.