On paper, South Africa’s loss to England at the ICC Cricket World Cup on Sunday may not have been too shocking. However, take a closer look at the batting scorecard and its clear to see why that undesirable ‘chokers’ tag has been used to describe the Proteas yet again.
Chasing a paltry 172 runs to win, victory looked almost certain with ‘Faf’ Du Plessis and AB de Villiers at the wicket needing just 48 runs from the remaining 18 overs.
But a capitulation of the highest order saw Graeme Smith’s men collapse from 124 for three to 165 all out to give England, who had been embarrassed by a defeat to Ireland in their previous outing, an unlikely win.
Unfortunately for South Africa fans, somehow snatching a draw or even loss from the hands of victory is not an uncommon occurrence in cricket’s biggest tournament.
Players and fans alike may be fed up of hearing the desperately unwanted ‘choker’ tag, but is it merited? Here are just a couple of instances that endorse that reputation:
South Africa v Australia, Edgbaston, 1999
The reward for the winners could hardly be bigger. A place in the World Cup final was at stake, with the Aussies looking to go one better than in the previous tournament when they finished runners-up to Sri Lanka.
The Proteas on the on the other hand were battling to reach their first final.
South Africa required just one more run off four balls to secure victory, with one wicket in hand.
Lance Kluesener clubbed the first two balls in the last over for four, but a disastrous run out involving Kluesener and Allan Donald left the scores tied on 213 all out.
In a now infamous incident, Kluesener went for a single off the fourth ball of the over. But at the non-striker’s end, Donald, who wasn’t watching his teammate, failed to hear the call and had dropped his bat, leaving him run out by a distance.
It sealed a heartbreaking end to their campaign, with Australia making it into the final thanks to a higher net run rate.
Sri Lanka v South Africa, Durban, 2003
It was another communication mix-up that led to a shocking exit at the 2003 tournament. As host nation, much was expected of Shaun Pollock’s side that in the end failed to reach the knockout stages after drawing their final group match.
In a game that was eventually curtailed early due to rain, the Duckworth-Lewis method revised Sri Lanka’s total of 268 for nine. The Proteas batsmen were given a table showing the number of runs needed to put on the board if rain set in, which they had reached.
Mark Boucher, believing this was the number required to win and not draw, faced what resulted in being the final ball and decided not to take a run even though it was possible to do so.
A win would have clinched a place in the Super Sixes but instead the match was a tie and South Africa were sent packing.
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