By Julian Guyer
Bengaluru: Mar 3, 2011
Shell-shocked England captain Andrew Strauss admitted his side needed to raise their game against in-form South Africa after slumping to a demoralising World Cup defeat by Ireland. Kevin O'Brien struck the fastest-ever World Cup century as Ireland won by three wickets after setting a new record score by a team batting second to win a World Cup match, of 329 for seven.
Worryingly for England, their past four World Cup matches have seen them concede their four highest tournament totals -- 300 against the West Indies in their final match of the 2007 edition, 292 in their win against the Netherlands in this competition and 338 in Sunday's thrilling tie against co-hosts India.
England dropped several catches against Ireland, with skipper Strauss putting down a skier to hand O'Brien a reprieve when he had made 91. Their attack was smashed for 62 runs in the five-over batting powerplay with fast bowler Stuart Broad conceding 73 runs in nine overs and seamer Tim Bresnan going for 64 in 10. Michael Yardy's spin was also expensive.
"Our bowling could have been better. We got taken by surprise there and we can't afford to give away those kind of chances here. They are very flat wickets and we were asking for trouble. We could have taken our catches. I dropped one and we dropped three others as well. That cost us the game, there's no doubt about it," Strauss said.
Ireland hero O'Brien summed up the failings of England's attack. "Personally, I just knew that if I could stay there and I got a few boundaries away, we could get on top of the English bowlers as teams previously in this tournament have done.
"I don't think England had any answers for us, to be honest. They didn't really know what they were up to with their bowling plans and we took advantage of that."
England play the highly fancied South Africans in Chennai on Sunday with Strauss aware of the significance of the match. "The game coming up against South Africa is a huge one for us and generally we bounce back well. We need to be honest with each other."
Strauss, who made a career-best 158 in the tie with India, praised O'Brien's innings of 113, in which he reached his century in just 50 balls. "It was an outstanding innings, the gall he showed to take the game to us in that situation," the England opener said of O'Brien, who turns 27 on Friday.
"They took the powerplay and Kevin O'Brien struck the ball beautifully. He rescued them from a pretty perilous position to one where they were up with the rate and they just needed to keep their heads in the end. It was a bit of a shock to us and I'm bitterly disappointed because we did a lot of things badly in the field again," he added.
"We were thinking we were getting some momentum after the India game," Strauss added. "We're not out of the World Cup by any means but we need to be better than we were today."