Colin Bryden

Yes, this time it was a choke

2011-03-28 15:48
Sport24 columnist Colin Bryden (File)
Colin Bryden
The ability to think clearly under pressure is a key attribute of successful sporting teams and individuals.
Sadly the Proteas had a couple of brain explosions in their World Cup semi-final against New Zealand, bringing gloom to a nation and (a fairly minor detail) embarrassment to this writer, who suggested recently that it was time to bury the “C” word in relation to the South African cricket team.
Sadly I was wrong. I stand by my premise that the word has been used inappropriately at times but the Proteas will only finally shed the “chokers” tag when they win a tight knockout match in a World Cup – and they won’t get that opportunity for another four years.
In the meantime it is possible that they will win nail-biting matches and head-to-head series, as they have done down the years. They may even do well in a Champions Trophy or a World Twenty20. But you can be sure that the next time they get to the knockout stage of a World Cup their opponents will be all over them, reminding them of previous failures and in particular the great choke of 2011.
Chasing a modest target of 222, it was crucial, on a slow, difficult pitch, that the top six scored almost all the runs.
The dismissal of Jacques Kallis, to a freakish catch, was a key moment. But the real catastrophes happened in the 28th over when the target had been reduced to 101, with seven wickets still standing.
JP Duminy was bowled playing a shot that will surely haunt him for the rest of his career. AB de Villiers was batting superbly, however, and was joined by Faf du Plessis, his old schoolmate and the last specialist batsman.
At that stage the discussion should surely have been, “Let’s bat sensibly and make sure we do nothing silly for at least the next ten overs.”
Instead Du Plessis hit the ball straight to a fielder, De Villiers was run out and South Africa were doomed.
When they analyse the match, the Proteas may note that New Zealand relied on four key bowlers, who between them had only two overs left when the match ended with 6.4 overs remaining. Daniel Vettori, the captain, would have had to rely on a part-timer or two and the odds might have swung back to South Africa if only they had a few wickets in hand.
If only...

Colin Bryden is a former cricket correspondent of the Sunday Times and current editor of the Mutual & Federal South African Cricket Annual.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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