First things first I don’t think the term choking really works for me. It conjures an image of casually enjoying a meal, when something gets stuck in your throat, causing a very unpleasant sensation. Unless you’re a professional speed eater, like that crazy japanese dude, it doesn’t really bear any relation to professional sports. Asphyxiating is probably more approriate, but I don’t see many headline writers going with ‘South Africa looking to shake off the asphyxiators tag’.

Instead, I propose the term tripping. As in South African had a lead of a mile going into the last lap of a 10,000 metres race when they continually tripped over their own shoe laces, allowing the rest of the field to catch up. They then opened up another lead (thanks to some strange captaincy decisions), before falling at the finishing line. This also captures the fact that a South African choke isn’t a single event, but torturous and long drawn out.

Part 1 – The Fielding

When the pressure of the match is telling, but its not too obvious. The fielding – South Africa gave away 7 runs through misfields and they lost by 7 runs. If it was Pakistan we couldn’t really use that argument, but the Saffers showed that even something as drilled as fielding can crack under pressure. See also Gibbs dropping the World Cup and the whole team dropping a bunch of catches when they should have beaten Australia in the Adelaide test in 1998 I think.

Part 2 – The Pressure Builds

When players who have played well begin to fade. Botha and Van der Merwe have both had not just excellent tournaments, but really good performances against Australia as well (in fact, Van der Merwe bowled well in the IPL also). Today they weren’t as consistent, threw in some full tosses and gave away more runs than usual. See also any South African spinner who is suddenly ‘rated’ by the rest of the world.

Part 3 – The Mini-Fightback

Omar Gul was sensational, but lets not forget that Steyn and Parnell were just as good, even while Malik was making out that we had already got 160. This reminded me a bit of the 1999 semi-final when Bevan and Waugh got Australia out of a hole, but SA fought back to still keep the Aussies to a gettable target.

Part 4 – Did They Not Watch Dead Poet’s Society in South Africa?

Carpe Diem my friends, carpe diem. Amazingly Simon Doull, who I had very low expectations of, rightly said that when the Proteas were chasing 10 an over against Omar Gul and Ajmal, they didn’t want to look back and wonder why they let Amir go 3 overs for 15. Amir’s figures in his first spell – 3 overs for 15.

This one is on Kallis – don’t be fooled by his stats. They had to attack Razzaq and Amir, just like Windies will have to (and will) attack Kuleskera/Udana/Matthews. You know what’s coming so get ahead of the rate. That might even mean Omar Gul comes on early instead of throttling you at the death.

Part 5 – Lack of Flexible Thinking

Duminy along with Rohit Sharma is one of my favourite batsmen in the world right now. However, by still sending him in when they did, they were accepting the rate would climb. When you have that many hitters in your team, you can sacrifice one if the situation demands. I hate Roelof van der Merwe’s batting but he would have been the ideal guy to try and slog the spinners out of the attack.

The same thing happened when they didn’t promote Gibbs up to open. This is unlike Pakistan who astonoshingly used Afridi sensibly. Don’t even get me started about Morkel not getting a chance to hit – the thing is, this used to happen with Klusener all the time and they still haven’t learnt.

Part 6 – The Opposition Gets You Back in the Game

In what was possibly the worst two over spell of captaincy ever, Younis decided to firstly give Fawad Alam a bowl and then take Omar Gul off, meaning he could only bowl 3 overs. Luckily this didn’t cost us but it was historically bad stuff. I’d put it right up there with Inzamam not taking the extra half hour in the test against New Zealand with rain forecast the next day.

Part 7 – Bad Luck

The umpire not giving Duminy out when he was plumb even though Sanjay Manjrekar cheekily tried to make out it was a good decision – he knew what he was doing. See also, Cronje getting given caught at slip of his boot against Australia in the 99 semi-final.

Part 7 – The Tragi-Comic Ending

Albie Morkel had to be on strike the last over. Instead, he almost had a collision with Duminy and was run out by a mile by Fawad Alam of all people (Now called specialist fielder as opposed to neither rounder). See also Klusener and Donald, Boucher blocking because they couldn’t read D/L properly.

There you have it folks – the anatomy of a choke job – or rather continously tripping over yourself to lose a perfectly winnable game.

Lets finish by giving credit to Afridi, Omar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Amir, Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, Fawad Alam and Kamran Akmal (don’t forget the AB dropped catch) in roughly that order. The boys managed to actually play to a game plan – get to 150 and fight like hell.

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