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England win a thriller as Yuvraj thwarts Irish

CHENNAI, March 6 (Reuters) England's much-maligned pacemen turned out to be the show-stopper in yesterday's heart-stopper in Chennai, bowling the team to a six-run win against South Africa to put their World Cup campaign back on track.

In Bangalore, Group B neighbours India averted more Irish mischief, riding Yuvraj Singh's all-round show for a five-wicket victory, a margin that reveals little of their discomfort.

It was, however, in Chennai that real drama unfolded at the MA Chidambaram Stadium where England and South Africa, both craving for their maiden ODI World Cup glory, starred in a nerve-jangling contest.

England would win any polls hands-down for the most happening team in the World Cup, having narrowly escaped an upset against the Netherlands, followed by a dramatic tie against India and a sensational defeat by Ireland before going into the match.

It is all enough to drive their Barmy Army followers even more barmy than normal.

“A cliffhanger of a game, we're keeping people interested at the moment . . . we have been involved in three very tight games of cricket so far in this World Cup. I think we are definitely doing our bit to advertise the 50-overs format,” England captain Andrew Strauss grinned after the match.But when Strauss and his team mates came out to defend the 171 runs they painstakingly had managed to put on board, almost an aberration in a tournament littered with 300-plus totals, not even their most ardent fans had given them much of a chance. More so considering their opponents' formidable batting line-up and their perceived near-invulnerability.

But England continue to confound.

The same bunch of bowlers who bled runs against the Netherlands (292), India (338) and Ireland (329) suddenly got their Ashes mojo back, hitting the right line and length and asking uncomfortable questions.

Bats were beaten, edges induced and bails whipped off as Stuart Broad (4-15), James Anderson (2-16) and Graeme Swann (1-29) treated, with some help from an inconsistent track, the South Africans to an assortment of swing both traditional and reverse and sharp turns. Even when South Africa cruised towards what looked like their third straight victory in the tournament, England bided their time.

Swann drew first blood getting rid of Graeme Smith but Broad offered that first real ray of hope, removing Hashim Amla (42) and Jacques Kallis (15) in quick succession to expose the South African middle-order that has not really been tested in the tournament. Anderson, the most expensive liability in the English attack until yesterday, suddenly got busy with reverse swing and South Africa lost five quick wickets that completely derailed their chase. Strauss did not lose perspective when asked if this was England's most memorable ODI victory.

“It's not our best win ever because we batted poorly. To lose three wickets early on that wicket was criminal. Thankfully Jonathan Trott (52) and Ravi Bopara (60) got us back in the hunt.”

India's batting looked hardly any better in Bangalore where they slumped to 100-4 against an Irish attack lacking top-flight exposure before Yuvraj (50 not out) bailed them out. Yuvraj became the first in a World Cup to take five-for with the ball and add a half-century for good measure in one match. Apart from Zaheer Khan (3-30), India's pace attack also looked pretty pedestrian and if they bowled out Ireland for 207 in just under 48 overs, they owe it to the ubiquitous Yuvraj (5-31).

The only big positive India would take from the match is Yuvraj's return to batting form which would strengthen the Indian line-up.

Australia too strengthened their batting line-up by bringing back Mike Hussey (pictured above) even though many expected a fellow bowler to replace injured Doug Bollinger.

Hussey was part of Australia's original 15-member team but was subsequently dropped fearing he might not recover from a hamstring injury.

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Published March 07, 2011 at 10:02 am (Updated March 07, 2011 at 10:02 am)

England win a thriller as Yuvraj thwarts Irish

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