LONDON (AP) — England eased into the Champions Trophy final after finishing off South Africa in a semifinal at The Oval on Wednesday that had all the tension of a practice session.
After dispatching South Africa for 175 in 39 overs, letting the Proteas slip out from a parlous 80-8, England could still afford to take its sweet time before a subdued, near-capacity crowd. The unfussed English eventually bagged the winning runs in 38 overs with seven wickets to spare.
Jonathan Trott and Joe Root combined for 105 to steer England to the brink of the victory. The indispensable Trott hit the winning runs with his 11th boundary in 82 not out off 84 balls. Root made 48.
But this was really the bowlers' victory, when they exploited ideal overcast and muggy conditions to tear apart the Proteas in the morning and rob all tension from the rest of the match. Offspinner James Tredwell, the backup to the injured Graeme Swann, was named man of the match for returning 3-19 and assisting in a run out. But it was fast bowler James Anderson who began the rout in the day's first over and took 2-14.
"If you'd said we'd win by seven wickets by 5 o'clock when we were walking to the ground, we'd have laughed at you," England captain Alastair Cook said. "It was a good toss to win. It was the first time the white ball swung conventionally in this tournament, probably down to the muggy conditions. When it swings like that, there's no other bowler in the world you want out there than Jimmy. And the others supported him."
Title favorite India or Sri Lanka will join England in the final on Sunday at Birmingham, where the hosts will try to win their first major one-day international title. "This England side has delivered when the chips are down and the pressure is at its highest," Cook said. "We hope its our time."
England's only previous Trophy final was also on home soil in 2004, when West Indies came from behind to win. Only a South Africa-record, ninth-wicket stand of 95 between David Miller and Rory Kleinveldt spared them from utter humiliation. A battery without the fearsome but injured Dale Steyn couldn't defend 175 in better batting conditions in the afternoon, and in South Africa's notorious post-apartheid history of major events, it was another scar to add to chokes in the World Cup semifinals in 1999 and 2007, the quarterfinals in 2011, and the Champions Trophy semis in 2000 and 2002.
"We choked the game," Kirsten said. "It's an uncomfortable word we've become comfortable with. "There's that dark mist that hangs over South African cricket in knockout events. We're going to have to cross that line to get rid of it, but it's going to require real charisma, some real guts and glory. It's going to require an enormous amount of resilience, and maybe certain types of individuals that can do it for us."
Kirsten, who returned to his homeland after helping India win the 2011 World Cup, decided long ago to bow out after this tournament. He believed the batsmen would lead the way to South Africa's second Trophy after winning the first in 1998.
But captain AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, the world's two leading batsmen in one-day internationals, scored only one run between them on Wednesday. Amla, with an average of 56, was second out for 1 in the second over, nicking Steven Finn and giving wicketkeeper Jos Buttler the first of his six catches.
Finn, No. 2 in the ODI bowler rankings, made his first tournament appearance only after Tim Bresnan returned home for the overdue birth of his first child, a boy. De Villiers, with an average of 50, was fourth out for a duck, giving an edge to Stuart Broad at 50-4. After less than 23 overs, they were 80-8.
Miller was stranded on 56, after Kleinvedlt notched a career-best 43 in their late stand. "To be blown away with the bat with the quality of batting in our lineup is very disappointing," Kirsten said.
He admired the Cape Town-born Trott, saying he batted the way they should have. "I don't think they choked," Cook said. "We didn't allow them to play."