South Africa’s Achilles Heel and Sri Lanka’s golden chance

"Choking" is what the rest of the world call it. Pressure is what it really is.

The pressure of knowing you have to win or it's all over. The pressure of sometimes your career being defined by your success in this one game.  For some it brings out the best in you, while for others it pulls you down like quick sand. Unfortunately for South Africa, more often than not they have let pressure get the best of them.

For me (and many other Sri Lankan fans around the world), we will be hoping pressure gets the best of South Africa again. Or do I dare say that SA "choke" again. When I was thinking about this, I wanted to think about what really makes SA lose these crunch games and that is the reason for this blog post.

Based on my research one thing is evident – Sri Lanka have to bat first if they are to win!

Let's take a close look at why.

First lets have a look at SA's record in knock-out games in World Cups chasing:

– 1992 – Semi-final vs England – lost
– 1996 – Quarter-final vs West Indies – lost
– 1999 – Semi-final vs Australia – lost
– 2003 – Group game vs Sri Lanka (must win clash for both teams) – lost
– 2011 – Quarter-final vs New Zealand – lost

*2007 was the only year they batted first and lost (vs Australia)

Looking at the above, in every do-or-die game they have chased in the history of World Cups – SA have lost. They can't seem to handle the pressure of having to chase down a score and this is where that pressure sets in.

Now in contrast, let's look at Sri Lanka's record batting first in knock-out games in World Cups (since 1992):

– 1992 – lost in group stages
– 1996 – Semi-final vs India – won
– 1999 – lost in group stages
– 2003 – Super Sixes vs Zimbabwe – won
– 2007 – Semi-final vs New Zealand – won
– 2011 – Final vs India – lost

Sri Lanka's record indicate they have been a lot more inconsistent in terms of overall results in World Cups over this period (ranging from winners to being knocked out in the group stages), however have won 3 and lost only 1 knock-out game batting first. Compare that record to Sri Lanka batting second in knock out games and it is alarming to note that Sri Lanka have lost 2 and won only 1 game chasing in knock-out games:

– 1996 – Final vs Australia – won
– 2003 – Semi-final vs Australia – lost
– 2007 – Final vs Australia – lost

If I was Angelo Matthews, I would be visiting every religious temple, church and mosque this week praying to the cricket gods that he wins the toss. Now I know, the game is not over "till the fat lady sings", and we witnessed that when Sri Lanka nearly chased down Australia's mammoth total of 378 in the group stages. However, if we bat first we stand a strong chance of taking off the pressure of our best performing players in this World Cup so far (our batsmen) and put pressure on SA where they don't like it – chasing totals in a knock-out game!

The only games SA have lost in this World Cup were both when they had to chase vs India & Pakistan. The writing is on the wall, lets hope the coin falls in our favor come 2pm on Wednesday 18th March 2015!

Go Lanka Go!

Leave a Comment