No choke: South Africa end winless run in Cricket World Cup knockout stages
The choker tag no longer burdens AB de Villiers and South Africa after they ended a winless streak in Cricket World Cup knockout matches with a nine-wicket quarter-final victory over Sri Lanka yesterday.
The tag became a source of frustration for South Africa, which regularly fielded teams capable of winning the World Cup since rejoining the international arena at the 1992 tournament, but failed in five straight playoffs.
The win was set up by Imran Tahir's 4-26 and JP Duminy's hat-trick - the pair combined to take four wickets for two runs in nine balls as Sri Lanka crumbled to be all out for 133.
Quinton de Kock returned to form in leading the chase with an unbeaten 78 from 57 balls, lifting South Africa to 134-1 in 18 overs. Faf du Plessis was unbeaten on 21 at the end. Hashim Amla (16) was the only wicket to fall, caught on the boundary off Lasith Malinga with the total at 40.
For Sri Lanka, champions in 2006 and runners-up at the last two World Cups, it was a disappointing end to the glittering limited-overs careers of veterans Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.
"I'm relieved and I'm very, very happy we won," de Villiers said. "In tournaments like this, you're always under pressure. ... We just showed everyone we can do it."
Motivated by criticism
He said he'd embraced the choker tag as motivation.
"I don't mind, really. I think we like being called chokers!" he replied to the most obvious of post-match questions. "It's a great achievement from the team. We came here to win the World Cup; our next hurdle is the semi-finals. We didn't come all this way to just say we made it to the semi-finals - we want to go all the way."
Slow bowlers Duminy and Tahir combined to ruin Sri Lanka's innings after the pacemen dismissed the openers cheaply.
Sri Lanka, after winning the toss and electing to bat, were bowled out in 37.2 overs, having spiralled from 114-4 in the 33rd over to 118-8.
After watching a procession of batsmen come in and go out, Sangakkara (45) was forced on to the attack late and his unprecedented run of consecutive centuries ended at four when he was caught near the boundary by David Miller off Morne Morkel's bowling, bringing to a close his watchful 96-ball innings.
His dismissal made the total 127-9, not long after play was disrupted by a spectator running on to the field, and immediately before a brief shower interrupted play.
Duminy became the first South African and just the eighth bowler to take a hat-trick at the World Cup.
His hat-trick started on the last ball of the 33rd over when he had skipper Angelo Mathews (19) caught by du Plessis to a poor shot and continued with wickets on the first two balls of the 35th. He had Nuwan Kulasekara (1) caught behind to a faint edge and Tharindu Kaushal, making his one-day international debut, trapped lbw for a first-ball duck.
"We could have at least got to 250 and given our bowlers a chance, but unfortunately we did not bat well," Mathews said. "Easily our worst performance at the World Cup."