Cricket World Cup 2015

SA eye SL knockout blow

2015-03-17 14:15
Hashim Amla (AP)

Sydney - South Africa will look to do what no Proteas team has done before by winning a knockout match at the Cricket World Cup when they face Sri Lanka in a quarter-final at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.

It was at the SCG where South Africa's inspiring World Cup debut in 1992 came to a farcical end after the rain-rule in force at the time left them with the impossible task of scoring 22 runs off one ball in a semi-final loss to England.

Yet that was merely the start of a litany of World Cup woe that included the pain of a tied semi-final but exit on net run-rate against Australia in 1999.

South Africa's worst World Cup finish came on home soil in 2003 when a failure to correctly interpret the Duckworth/Lewis rain rule meant they bowed out at the group stage after a dramatic tie with Sri Lanka in Durban.

In 2011, they suffered a surprise quarter-final defeat by New Zealand.

In Hashim Amla and skipper AB de Villiers, who made a superb 162 not out against the West Indies in the group stage at the SCG, South Africa boast two of the world's leading batsmen, with Dale Steyn the pre-eminent fast bowler of his generation.

But can they demonstrate their undeniable talent in a 'win or go home' knockout match?

"Every time we get to these events it's going to be questioned," said coach Russell Domingo when asked about South Africa's unwanted tag of 'chokers'.

"We're thinking on what's made us successful over the last year, on what helped us beat Sri Lanka when we toured there eight months ago.

"Those types of things are really important to focus on in the pressure moments."

A specific problem confronting the Proteas is the form of opener Quinton de Kock, who has managed just 53 runs in six innings this World Cup.

But with de Villiers reluctant to keep wicket, de Kock's skill with the gloves could see him retain his place.

"It is a tricky selection," said Domingo. "We just sort of have this gut feeling that Quinton's got a big score around the corner."

Domingo had a similar view of Steyn, who hasn't yet been at his devastating best this World Cup.

"It's only a matter of time before he puts in a match-winning performance for us," the coach said.

Another issue for South Africa is whether to play a fifth specialist bowler - when de Villiers tried to 'fiddle' nine overs between himself and JP Duminy in a pool loss to Pakistan, they cost 77 runs in total.

Both South Africa and Sri Lanka won four and lost two of their group matches.

But when it comes to knockout cricket Sri Lanka, the reigning World Twenty20 champions, have the edge on the Proteas.

The 1996 World Cup winners have also been the losing finalists in the last two editions.

"Over the last few years in big tournament matches, I've seen people raise their game and raise the whole team," said Sri Lanka coach Marvan Atapattu.

"These guys can do it again."

Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara, who plans to retire from 50-over cricket after the tournament, is going out in a blaze of glory.

The veteran left-hander comes into Wednesday's match having scored a record four successive ODI hundreds.

Sri Lanka hope to have Rangana Herath fit after he suffered a finger injury against England, with the bowler's left-arm spin likely to be a useful weapon on a SCG pitch renowned for taking turn.

Paceman Lasith Malinga, like Steyn, hasn't yet hit top form.

However, the memory of how his four wickets in four balls almost saw Sri Lanka to an improbable win over South Africa at the 2007 World Cup in Guyana before they went down by one wicket, could prey on the Proteas' batsmen as much as their country's troubled World Cup history.

Read more on:    proteas  |  cwc 2015  |  hashim amla  |  cricket

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