Cape Town - Say the word “chokers”, and the South African
cricket team immediately springs to mind. The Proteas have developed a
reputation for crumbling when it really counts. They have never advanced beyond
the semi-finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup, despite being one of the
highest-rated teams in the world.
The team clearly doesn’t appreciate the
attention. South Africa’s all-rounder Jacques Kallis recently retorted, “They
should go and look up the meaning of chokers in the dictionary first”. Well, we
did. According to Wikipedia, a choke is the failure of a team to win
a game when the team had been strongly favoured to win or had squandered a
large lead. According to this definition, and based on recent results at the
World Cup, South Africa do not deserve the choker tag.
In fact, the clear
winner for the title of biggest chokers in world cricket is – England.
The greatest choke in history?
The thrilling World Cup match
between England and Ireland on 2 March rates as one of the greatest chokes in
the history of the game. England scored a mammoth total of 327 and Ireland
looked dead and buried after slumping to 113/5 after 25 overs. “England’s
winning chances at the start of the match were 96%”, said Gavin Symanowitz, CEO
of SportsChances.com. “We
tracked England’s winning chances ball-by-ball throughout the match, and
halfway through the second innings this figure had increased to 99.99%”. It took the fastest century in Cricket World
Cup history by Kevin O’ Brien to turn the game around and snatch a historic
victory for Ireland. “The graph of the ball-by-ball winning chances over the course of the match is quite
astonishing,” remarked Symanowitz, “we’re unlikely to see anything like it
Nine days later, England repeated the feat
against Bangladesh. With 10 overs left in the match, Bangladesh required 55
runs off 10 overs with just 2 wickets in hand. SportsChances.com calculated
England’s winning chance to be over 95% at this point. Amazingly, England managed to
squander this favoured position, and Bangladesh cruised home with an over to
England even managed to choke in a game they
weren’t expected to win. On 27 February, India justified their starting winning
chances of 68% against England by amassing an impressive 338. At this point, England’s
winning chances on SportsChances.com were looking dismal at just over 10%. An
incredible batting display by Andrew Strauss turned things around and England moved
into a commanding position at 272/2 after 40 overs. “At this point, England’s winning chances were 89% and they looked set for an impressive victory”, recalls
Symanowitz. “And then it fell apart. Six wickets fell in relatively quick
succession and they managed to scramble a tie on the last ball”.
It doesn’t take much for a label to stick.
Sports fans are notoriously unforgiving. Will England be able to overcome the
choker perception that their performances at the World Cup have created? Only
time will tell.