Millennium Post

Proteas out to shed ‘chokers’ tag

Proteas out to shed ‘chokers’ tag
Keen to shrug-off the chokers tag, AB de Villiers-led South Africa will look to achieve a first by winning a knockout match at the World Cup when they lock horns with Sri Lanka in the high-voltage first quarterfinal at Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.

It was in 1992 that Proteas’ ill-fated knockout exits started following the Kepler Wessels-led side’s loss against England after it was left to chase 21 runs off the final ball post a Duckworth/Lewis rain rule that came into effect, ironically at the SCG. The series of near-misses continued for the woeful South African side and its semi-final exit in 1999 probably was the most painful after Australia edged them out on net run-rate in a tied game.

The current side will also try to forget the 2003 World Cup finish on home soil 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 quarterfinal defeat to New Zealand. But on Wednesday is another day and de Villiers will look to turn over a new page in the South African cricket calender with a well-balanced side at his disposal. If the batting boasts of Hashim Amla and de Villiers then the bowling rides high on the brilliance of pace spearhead Dale Steyn.But can they demonstrate their undeniable talent in the knockouts is a question that is bothering many a Proteas fan.

Sri Lanka on the other hand have a fine record in knockout matches. The reigning World T20 champions also appeared in the last two World Cup finals and won the tournament back in 1996. The Angelo Mathews-led side also looks to possess the necessary arsenal to go all the way in this edition.

Tournament’s leading run-scorer Kumar Sangakkara (496), who has hit record four consecutive ODI tons coming into the match, is enough to invoke fear in any bowling line-up. Opener Tilakaratne Dilshan has also been a force to reckon with two centuries in this tournament and the bowling always looks good with the ever-dependable Lasith Malinga leading the charge.

With many pundits hyping the contest as a de Villiers and Sangakkara clash, the Proteas captain
brushed aside the argument, saying, “To be very honest, and I hope you don’t take it the wrong way, I couldn’t care less about him or me. I just want to win the game of cricket on Wednesday. If it’s our No. 11 batsman on Wednesday who wins the game for us, so be it. I just want to find a way to win,” said 31-year-old de Villiers.

Even Sri Lanka spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan has told the islanders to not obsess with de Villiers presence. “I have two messages, win the toss and do not get too hung up thinking about AB de Villiers. The side batting first in one-day internationals at the Sydney Cricket Ground wins 58 per cent of the time according to the statistics but, in the pressure of a knock-out match as this one is, I reckon the advantage of runs on the board counts for even more than that figure suggests,” the off-spin great wrote in latest ICC column.

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