The ‘choker’ tag fits in nicely for SA

“It has happened again to be honest with ourselves. I think we did choke again. At the end of the day, it’s a word that we’ve become comfortable with,” said South African coach Gary Kirsten after his team’s miserable show against England in the semfinal. By Shreedutta Chidananda.

As far as freezing on the big occasion goes, things didn’t unfold in the pattern South Africa is familiar with. Nonetheless, the team lost its head in another crunch match, turning in a limp batting display to bow out of the Champions Trophy with a seven-wicket defeat to England.

A much-vaunted batting group failed miserably as South Africa was dismissed for a poor 175 at The Oval. Things had looked far worse at 80 for eight but a record ninth-wicket partnership of 95, between David Miller and Rory Kleinveldt, lent the total some measure of respectability.

England then chased the score down with no difficulty, Jonathan Trott anchoring the innings with an unflappable 82 (84 balls) and Joe Root providing him good support. Afterwards, in perhaps his last press conference as the South Africa coach, Gary Kirsten was brutal in his assessment. “To be blown away with the bat with the quality of batsmen we’ve got is very disappointing. It’s not something that you would expect,” he said.

To surprise, Kirsten declared that the team had ‘choked’. “It has happened again to be honest with ourselves. I think we did choke again. At the end of the day, it’s a word that we’ve become comfortable with. It’s an uncomfortable word that we’ve become comfortable with. So they bowled exceptionally well, England. But at the end of the day, that doesn’t mean your batting should (fail). It’s a horrible word. It does get used,” he said.

“We certainly give it our best shot in our preparation. But it’s one of these things. It’s definitely a dark mist that hangs over South African cricket in knock-out events.”

James Anderson deserved all the credit for his dismissals of Colin Ingram — set up expertly, with first an outswinger and then an inswinger — and Robin Peterson. But Hashim Amla edged Steven Finn behind trying to leave the ball and A.B. de Villiers flailed at a wide delivery from Stuart Broad.

James Tredwell then took out Faf du Plessis and J.P. Duminy, the latter a shadow of the batsman he once was, to leave South Africa staggering. It was only some enterprising batting from Miller and good support from Kleinveldt that prevented complete humiliation.

England’s reply looked in slight trouble after the early dismissals of the openers Alastair Cook and Ian Bell but a 105-run association between Trott and Root finished the game off. Often criticized for being too slow and hampering the team’s progress, Trott eventually finished almost at a run a ball.

England’s bowlers flourished in conditions that helped swing and South Africa’s one-day team is still work in progress but it is hard to escape the feeling that the Proteas slipped up on yet another important day.

Meanwhile, two days earlier, England had advanced to the semifinals after a tense 10-run win over New Zealand in a rain-affected game. The contest was shortened to 24 overs a side and led by a half-century from an uncharacteristically aggressive Cook, England ran up 169. New Zealand’s deep batting line-up came a cropper except for 67 from Kane Williamson and Corey Anderson’s 30 down the order, there were no contributions. Anderson was at his best again, making early inroads while Ravi Bopara turned in a useful performance with the ball.

Sri Lanka became the other Group ‘A’ team to make the last four as a dire Australia crashed out. Mahela Jayawardene’s polished 84 (81 balls), and Lahiru Thirimanne’s half-century rescued Sri Lanka from disaster and helped it to a total of 253.

In response, Australia’s batting failed again, Glenn Maxwell and Adam Voges starting well but failing to stick around till the end. Clint McKay and Xavier Doherty gave Sri Lanka some anxious moments with a 41-run stand for the last wicket but the latter’s dismissal gave the islanders a 20-run win.

THE SCORES England v South Africa, The Oval, June 19.

South Africa: C. Ingram lbw b Anderson 0; Hashim Amla c Buttler b Finn 1; R. Peterson lbw b Anderson 30; F. du Plessis c Buttler b Tredwell 26; AB de Villiers c Buttler b Broad 0; J. P. Duminy b Tredwell 3; D. Miller (not out) 56; R. McLaren (run out) 1; C. Morris c Buttler b Tredwell 3; R. Kleinveldt c Buttler b Broad 43; L. Tsotsobe c Buttler b Broad 0; Extras: (lb-6, w-6) 12; Total (38.4 overs) 175.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-4, 3-45, 4-50, 5-63, 6-70, 7-76, 8-80, 9-175.

England bowling: Anderson 8-1-14-2, Finn 8-1-45-1, Broad 8.4-0-50-3, Tredwell 7-1-19-3, Root 3-0-22-0, Bopara 4-0-19-0.

England: A. Cook c de Villiers b Morris 6; I. Bell c de Villiers b Kleinveldt 20; J. Trott (not out) 82; J. Root b Duminy 48; E. Morgan (not out) 15; Extras: (lb-4, w-4) 8; Total (for three wickets in 37.3 overs) 179.

Fall of wickets: 1-22, 2-41, 3-146.

South Africa bowling: Morris 8-1-38-1, Peterson 9.3-1-49-0, Duminy 5-0-27-1, Tsotsobe 5-0-26-0, Kleinveldt 4-0-10-1, McLaren 6-0-25-0.