South Africa Ch, Ch Choke, Yet Again

Sanjay DevaCorrespondent IJune 19, 2009

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 18:  Graeme Smith of South Africa looks dejected with team mate Jacques Kallis during the ICC World Twenty20 Semi Final between Pakistan and South Africa at Trent Bridge on June 18, 2009 in Nottingham, England.  (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

The First 20/20 World Cup semi-final was played at Trent Bridge between South Africa and Pakistan, and once more we witnessed the Proteas choking in a major tournament.

Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat first. Thanks to Kamran Akmal they got away to a flyer and could have been halted after his departure when the first 2 wickets were down for 28.

However in came Shahid Afridi who threw caution to the wind, and elected to back his ability. It was a fantastic innings of 51 off only 34 deliveries that got Pakistan back into the match. However the South Africans once again fought hard and remarkably ensured no boundaries were scored off the last five overs.

That is an extraordinary achievement and Pakistan would have been happy with a score of 149. South Africa meanwhile would have deemed that a gettable total.

The South African innings got off to a solid start with Kallis and Smith putting on 40 runs during the sixth over. At that stage it was looking comfortable, but Smith got out to a poor shot. In came Gibbs who once again failed on an important occasion. Surely he cannot be persisted with.

He simply fails way to often and is not a long term solution. When De Villiers quickly became Afridi's second wicket, South Africa had started to lose valuable momentum and wickets and were stuttering at 50-3.

Kallis and Duminy rebuilt the innings but were simply way too slow. They used up valuable deliveries and left way too much for the last few overs. When Kallis got out at the start of the 17th over, he left too much for new batters coming to the crease to be able to handle.

Gul was simply bowling intelligently, firing the ball in at yorker length, and 20 an over was never a possibility.

So are South Africa chokers? Graeme Smith has been quick to say the team didn't choke. They simply lost an important game. Again. We have lost so often in semi-finals, we can't seem to win a world trophy, and yet again we lose when we have looked so good during the tournament. I'd call that choking.

Not being able to cope with expectation, and losing games we should win is what choking is. It hurts me to say it, and no doubt the players are hurting, but until we accept we are chokers and try to do something different, nothing is going to change.

I believe Pakistan won the game because once again South Africa played not to lose and eventually succumbed to pressure. The most disappointing aspect of the loss is the fact we haven't seemed to learn lessons we've made in the past. It was a very gettable run chase, and we lacked a positive approach.

We started off with a solid run rate, but we could have taken the game to the Pakistanis and tried to get ahead of the rate. If the wicket was slightly two paced as Smith mentioned, all the more reason to go hard early on.

Once we were three down, it was important to rebuild the innings and the run rate was now almost nine. Greater urgency was needed and we simply batted too slowly from overs 9-16. Kallis and Duminy have to shoulder that.

Too often in the past when we have tried to chase totals we leave far too much for the end. The fact we still had five wickets in tact is the dumb thing. We should have gone harder, earlier. I'd rather see us have a go and get bowled out for 130 than finish 142/5. That's just stupid.

Another chance gone begging, another loss to deal with. It's a pity because South African cricket has been so consistent over the last two years. I just hope we finally learn something, back our ability and go for the win, and finally win a world cup in 2011!