England's T20 World Cup semi-final hopes hang in the balance after agonising defeat by South Africa...with Jos Buttler's side needing victory over USA on Sunday for a chance of making the last four

England's T20 World Cup hopes depend on a win against the USA on SundayJos Buttler's side lost by seven runs against South Africa in a thriller in St Lucia Aiden Markram brilliantly caught Harry Brook to make it six wins from six  

England may have to beat the USA in Barbados on Sunday to stand a chance of reaching the World Cup semi-finals after losing a thriller by seven runs to South Africa in St Lucia.

The pulsating win over West Indies barely 36 hours earlier had encouraged thoughts of early qualification. And when Harry Brook and Liam Livingstone reduced the equation to 25 off three overs on an unexpectedly sluggish surface at the Daren Sammy Stadium, Jos Buttler's side had one foot in the last four.

But Livingstone tried to hit a full toss for six into the wind, and was caught at deep backward square, earning a send-off from the pumped-up bowler Kagiso Rabada. Then, with 14 needed off the last over, Brook - having completed a skilful 34-ball half-century - fell to a superb running catch at deep mid-off by South African captain Aiden Markram.

It proved the decisive moment. Sam Curran glanced Anrich Nortje for four to reduce the equation to nine off three deliveries, but for England that was as good as it got, leaving Buttler to lament both a tale of two powerplays and the talents of South African opener Quinton de Kock.

While de Kock helped his side to 63 without loss in the first six overs en route to a scintillating 65 off 38, England could do no better than 41 for one, including the loss of Phil Salt - slayer of West Indies - for just 11.

England lost by seven runs to South Africa, leaving their T20 World Cup hopes in doubt

England lost by seven runs to South Africa, leaving their T20 World Cup hopes in doubt

They will need to beat South Africa on Sunday for a shout of making the last four

Aiden Markram brilliantly caught Harry Brook to derail England's momentum in a thriller

Aiden Markram brilliantly caught Harry Brook to derail England's momentum in a thriller

And de Kock later rubbed England's noses in it, suggesting their bowlers had taken too long to adapt to the slowness of the pitch in what was St Lucia's first game of the tournament not to take place under lights.

'We've seen a couple of night games here, and some people have made that mistake,' he said. 'I've played a few Caribbean Premier League games here and it certainly doesn't play the same during the day as it does during the night.'

Buttler, who bowls first almost as a matter of course whenever he wins the toss, admitted de Kock had proved the difference. 'We lost it in the powerplay,' he said. 'Quinny came out with a lot of itent, and we couldn't match them.'

Still, with England's net run-rate bolstered by Wednesday's hammering of West Indies, the key lay in avoiding a heavy defeat before they change islands again and fly to Bridgetown.

The upshot of South Africa's sixth win out of six was that their net run-rate was only a fraction better than England's. And whatever happened in last night's late start between West Indies and the USA in Barbados, that means victory over the Americans ought to be enough to take England through. In the meantime, they will be scanning the forecasts.

Despite defeat, there were reasons to be cheerful at one of the Caribbean's most picturesque grounds, surrounded by green hills and smart apartments. Adil Rashid took his figures in the two games here to 8-0-41-2 with another outstanding spell, while Reece Topley continued to underline the folly of leaving him out of the group matches in Barbados.

The fielding, too, was world-class, with Buttler leaping high to his left to catch de Kock off Archer, then removing Heinrich Klaasen - who had destroyed England during their 50-over World Cup match in Mumbai - with a direct hit at the non-striker's end as South Africa attempted a run off a leg-side wide.

Athletic catches by Brook and Curran in the last over then left Archer on a hat-trick, but not before David Miller's 28-ball 43 had helped South Africa towards a defendable total of 163 for six.

Yet in both innings England were slow to read the conditions, expecting - and no doubt hoping for - a repeat of the pacy surface, two pitches along on the square, that had helped them knock off 181 against West Indies.

Topley rose above the criticism, but Archer's first over disappeared for 21, and de Kock was soon racing to a 22-ball half-century. For the fourth time in six games at this World Cup, England failed to take a wicket in the powerplay.

South Africa have won six of their six games and just did enough to edge past England

Their mood wasn't helped when TV official Joel Wilson ruled - rightly - that Mark Wood at deep backward square had not got his fingers under the ball after de Kock, on 58, mistimed a sweep off Rashid.

And while England's bowlers fought back, limiting the South Africans to 100 for six from their last 14 overs, their top order struggled for timing, with left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj dismissing Jonny Bairstow and Buttler in successive overs.

When Moeen Ali pulled Ottneil Baartman to deep midwicket from the second ball after the 10-over drinks break, England were 61 for four, and beginning to fear a defeat that would damage their net run-rate as well as their pride.

But Brook showed his class, and Livingstone his power, as South Africa's seamers lost their lengths in three dreadful overs costing 52. Their fightback wasn't enough on the day, but - once this group is done and dusted in the small hours of Monday morning - it may still prove enough to take them into the semi-finals.

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