India remind South Africa of their 'chokers' tag in 2002 ICC Champions Trophy
Who can forget that famous 1999 World Cup semi-final between South Africa and Australia? I'm sure South Africa can't. After all, the beginning of the association between 'South Africa' and the word 'chokers' started then. Moreover, it's been 18 years and they are yet to qualify for a World Cup final.
Let's rewind a little...
South Africa won the toss and put Australia in to bat first, a brave call considering that it's difficult to chase in such a high-voltage contest. By the end of the first innings, Cronje must have felt good about the decision as Australia failed to bat 50 overs, scoring just 213 on the back of fifties from their captain Steve Waugh and the ever-consistent Michael Bevan. Pollock and Donald were the wreckers-in-chief, taking five and four wickets respectively.
Knowing the kind of team Australia possessed back then, nobody could have ruled them out in spite of the target being a mere 214. South Africa started sensibly, but crumbled in the middle overs as they huffed and puffed their way to 198-9 in 48.4 overs, with Jacques Kallis being the top contributor, ably supported by Jonty Rhodes.
The Proteas now needed 16 off 8 balls with Lance Klusener and Allan Donald at the crease. Klusener brought the equation down to 1 off 4 balls before Donald suffered a brain fade. Donald remained stuck on his crease even as Klusener played the ball and set off for a single, resulting in a mix-up and eventually a run-out. The scores were tied but it was all over for South Africa as Australia progressed to the final, courtesy of their higher position in the super 6 stage.
But if South Africa thought that those memories would fade with time, they had another thing coming. Time and again have they been reminded of their 'chokers' tag and here we relive another one of their infamous chokes, this time against India in the 2002 Champions Trophy.
Another semi-final, Another chase for South Africa
India had won the toss and decided to bat first. They started aggressively and reached their 100 within 16 overs, with Sehwag looking in ominous form. But just when it looked like he would take the match away from the opposition, he departed for 59 off 58 balls. It was then that the Indian innings started to wobble.
Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh came together at the crease with the scoreboard reading 135-4 and started rebuilding the Indian innings. They stitched together a crucial partnership, guiding the team to a respectable 261-9 in their allotted 50 overs.
The Pollock and Donald show again
Just like in the 1999 WC semi-final, Pollock and Donald were at their destructive best, sharing five wickets between them. Pollock, in particular, was impressive as he took three wickets in his last, and the innings' penultimate over, ensuring there was no late flourish by the Indian batsmen.
A brilliant start
No target is big when you have the likes of Gibbs, Smith and Kallis in the opposition. After losing Smith early in the chase, Gibbs and Kallis stitched a huge partnership, motoring to 191-1 in 36 overs, with Gibbs scoring his hundred at more than a run-a-ball. If Sehwag's innings was entertaining, Gibbs' was brutal.
However, the right-hander, who was struggling to deal with the humidity, decided to retire hurt knowing he had done his job and assuming his team would coast to a comfortable victory. At that point, South Africa required just 71 off 84 balls with a well-set Kallis at the crease and many batsmen, including Klusener, to follow.
This was probably the break the Indian team so desperately needed. There was a spring in the step of the Indian fielders. The Indian supporters had found their voices and the stadium was buzzing again. They could feel something brewing. Harbhajan Singh came on to bowl the next over and took two wickets with Yuvraj taking a blinder to send back Rhodes. The game was truly on.
A thrilling finish
South Africa were doing it again, snatching a defeat from the jaws of victory. The Indian bowlers, who had struggled to take a single wicket between the 3rd and 38th over, found their rhythm. South Africa began to struggle and it all boiled down to an improbable 21 runs needed off the final 6 balls.
Sehwag came on to bowl the final over. Kallis hit the first ball for a mammoth six, reducing the equation to 15 off 5 balls. However, he top-edged the very next ball and it was all but over for the South Africans. They ended up with 251/6 in their 50 overs. This wasn't Australia, this wasn't a World-Cup either, but the result was the same, a South African choke and subsequent defeat.
And till today, they continue to live with their 'chokers' tag.