09/12/2022

World Cups and South Africa: A case of so near yet so far

South Africa was knocked out of the ongoing T20 World Cup after its shock defeat against Netherlands in its last group stage match on Sunday.

Skipper Temba Bavuma’s decision to bowl first after winning the toss backfired as Netherlands got off to a flying start, thanks to openers Max O’Dowd and Stephan Myburgh, who took their team to 48 at the end of the PowerPlay.

The Dutch then suffered occasional setbacks but a late flourish from Colin Ackermann and Scott Edwards helped them post a respectable 158 for four.

In reply, the Proteas, with Quinton de Kock and Bavuma opening the chase, got off to a decent start with 20 runs on the board before de Kock edged one to Edwards off Fred Klaassen. From then on, South Africa lost wickets at regular intervals. The last nail in the coffin came when Roelof van der Merwe took a stunning catch to dismiss the dangerous David Miller. Netherlands went on to win the game by 13 runs.

The defeat and elimination would have hurt South Africa, especialy because it was the only undeafeted team in the tournament until Thursday, when it lost to Pakistan by 33 runs. The Proteas would have also rued the rain, which deprived them of a point in the game against Zimbabwe. The match was called off with South Africa needing just 13 runs to win off 24 balls.

But this isn’t the first time that South Africa has crumbled under pressure. Here are other instances when the Proteas failed to deliver in crunch situations.

1992 World Cup Semifinal

South Africa was at the receiving end of the vagaries of the Duckworth-Lewis (DLS) Method. Kepler Wessels, the South Africa skipper, had won the toss and elected to field at the Sydney Cricket Ground. England, riding on Graeme Hick’s stroke-play and cameos from Ian Botham and Dermot Reeve, posted a healthy 252 for six in 45 overs in the rain-marred fixture. The Proteas were in the game, albeit none of the batters scoring big, until rain halted play when they needed 22 to win off 13 balls. After a few minutes of heavy showers, DLS came into play and suddenly South Africa had an impossible task at hand. It needed 22 runs off one ball. Eventually, Wessels’ side was knocked out of the tournament while England progressed to the final.

The scoreboard tells the story as England wins a controversial rain-affected game on run rate in the World Cup semifinal against South Africa at the SCG.

The scoreboard tells the story as England wins a controversial rain-affected game on run rate in the World Cup semifinal against South Africa at the SCG.
| Photo Credit: GETTY IMAGES

1999 World Cup Semifinal

The 1999 World Cup semifinal clash between Australia and South Africa was tied, with the Proteas getting eliminated in the most heart-breaking way. In Birmingham, Hansie Cronje had won the toss and elected to bowl and that decision paid off as Australia was in deep trouble, reduced to 69 for four. Michael Bevan and Adam Gilchrist were the saviours, putting on a 90-run partnership to guide the Aussies to an above-par 213.

The Australian bowlers were relentless and suddenly, South Africa was reeling at 61 for four. Jonty Rhodes and Jacques Kallis steadied the innings for the Proteas. But once Kallis fell, Cronje’s side lost wickets in quick succession. With Lance Klusener and Allan Donald at the crease, South Africa needed nine off the final over. Klusener struck boundaries off consecutive deliveries from Damien Fleming and just a run was needed to seal the deal. A mix-up between the batters led to a run out at the non-striker’s end and the match ended in a tie as Australia qualified for the final and went on to clinch the title.

In what was one the best matches in the 1999 World Cup, Klusener, after taking South Africa within sight of victory from a near impossible position, took off for a suicidal run off the penultimate ball of the last over.

In what was one the best matches in the 1999 World Cup, Klusener, after taking South Africa within sight of victory from a near impossible position, took off for a suicidal run off the penultimate ball of the last over.
| Photo Credit: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

2003 World Cup

Rain again played spoilsport in South Africa’s World Cup hopes in 2003. Needing a win in its final group stage fixture against Sri Lanka, all that the host managed was a tie and was eventually knocked out, paving the way for New Zealand to qualify for the semifinal. Sanath Jayasuriya, the Lankan skipper, won the toss and opted to bat first at Kingsmead, Durban. Marvan Attapattu’s well stitched ton and Aravinda de Silva’s 73 pushed Sri Lanka to 269 at the end of 50 overs.

Umpire Srinivas Venkataraghavan (left) puts on a rain jacket as umpire Steve Bucknor (second from left) talks on a radio as rain interrupts play.

Umpire Srinivas Venkataraghavan (left) puts on a rain jacket as umpire Steve Bucknor (second from left) talks on a radio as rain interrupts play.
| Photo Credit: AP

Chasing 270, Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith set the platform, firing on all cylinders. Once Smith was dismissed, wickets started to fall at regular intervals until Shaun Pollock and Mark Boucher stabilised restored some normalcy. But Muttiah Muralitharan applied the brakes with a brilliant run out to claim Pollock’s wicket. Boucher and Lance Klusener then calmed the Proteas’ nerves and took their side to 229 for six when persistent rain forced the players off the field. Boucher then failed to score off the last ball of the 45th over, which eventually turned out to be the final delivery of the match. A single would have brought South Africa victory and a place in the next round but the match officials decided to end the contest.

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