Midway through the South African innings, the word ‘chokers’ was trending on social media as the Proteas suffered a less-than-ideal start to their World Cup semifinal against Australia, being reduced to 24/4 in the 12th over. Whether they like it or not, the ‘chokers’ tag has been the albatross around South African necks for decades, and Friday was another occasion when they tripped over at the knockout hurdle.
Head coach Rob Walter, however, refused to acknowledge the tag, saying, “You need to define what choking is. For me, a choke is losing a game which you were in a position to win. Here, we were behind the 8-ball right from the word go and actually fought our way back into the competition and put up a score that gave us a chance, and then they got off to a flier. So, how we fought and put ourselves back into the game, for me, that’s nothing even remotely close to a choke out there. Just a serious contest between two good teams.”
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Friday’s result was the latest in the long list of close encounters in the World Cup that South Africa will have nightmares about, joining the likes of the 1999 tied semifinal against Australia, the 2003 DLS debacle where they went out of the tournament at home in the group stage, losing in the 2007 semifinals and 2011 quarterfinals to Australia and New Zealand respectively. In the 2015 semifinals, they lost to New Zealand again while they failed to qualify for the knockout stage in 2019.
The curse continued in 2023 as South Africa initially wilted under pressure with the bat and by the time they mustered the strength to fight back with David Miller’s century and their spinners’ splendid performance, it was too little too late.
The runs on the board fell short and Australia, after a few minor hiccups, trudged to yet another knockout victory against their old foes.