South Africa lost against India in the ICC World T20 2014 semi-final on April 4. This was yet another occasion where South Africa were knocked out of an ICC global event in the knockout stages. Many would say that they ‘choked’ yet again in an important match. But Shrikant Shankar feels that in this ICC World T20 2014 match, South Africa were simply second best to India and a certain Virat Kohli.
Even before South Africa played the semi-final of the ICC World T20 2014 against India, many had already predicted that they will ‘choke’. That ‘C’ word is probably the most dreaded in South African cricket. Almost every International Cricket Council (ICC) global tournament, South Africa manage new ways of losing matches; and that too in the knockout stages or do-or-die matches. From infamous run-outs to misinterpreting scores to odd team selections to inexplicable team strategies to simply not turning up and even the Rain Gods not favouring them, South Africa have done it and experienced it all.
They have made it a habit of losing in knockout matches. That trend continued on April 4, 2014. South Africa lost the ICC World T20 2014 semi-final against India by six wickets. Just looking at the result margin, one would think that it was another case of South Africa not turning up. But a close inspection at the scorecards and even looking at the highlights, one could easily understand that South Africa did not ‘choke’. After winning the toss, Faf du Plessis elected to bat. South Africa posted a competitive 172 for four in their 20 overs. Now that is the kind of total a team would want in an important match like this. It is simple and that is put runs on the board and then exert pressure on the team batting second.
Du Plessis top-scored with 58 and JP Duminy remained unbeaten on 45. Important contributions from Hashim Amla (22) and David Miller (23 not out) helped South Africa as well. Only Ravichandran Ashwin (three for 22) got a great deal of purchase off the wicket. While there have been some extraordinary chases in this World T20, chasing in general has been trickier than expected. Sri Lanka have bundled out teams after posting good totals. India had their work cut out. They also do not have a lot of depth in their batting line-up. After the first six, there are not many who can be relied upon regularly to guide India through.
But India made a positive start with Rohit Sharma taking the attack to the opposition. Ajinkya Rahane also played his part in the initial phase. But it was all Virat Kohli after that. He started off by only accumulating ones and twos. Once he was left with the middle-order, Kohli came into his own and began scoring the boundaries in the end. After Suresh Raina scored 17 runs from the 17th over bowled by Wayne Parnell, it was only a matter of finishing formalities for India. Kohli duly struck the winning four after MS Dhoni had allowed him to do so. India won in 19.1 overs. In no point during that entire run-chase were South Africa in absolute control. And that means there is no question of choking.
South Arica came in as second best, as simple as that. Kohli paced his innings to perfection and won India the game. One could say that South Africa again lost in a crunch knockout match and that could constitute to some form of choking. But that is just trying to find facts to prove theories. Yes, South Africa lost a knockout match again, but they did not choke. There have been some critics on their bowling strategy. But if things had come off, then du Plessis would have been praised highly. That is how fickle some are in sports. There is another team that has ‘choked’ in major tournaments since 1996, Sri Lanka. And they face undefeated India in the World T20 final on April 6. Let’s see if they too continue their trend.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)
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