Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Anatomy of a choke

As England extend South Africa's run of tournament disappointment, the question all and sundry are asking is, was this a choke? Maybe, maybe not.

Define choke

Good question. The most common definition is when a team is in a dominant position, then lets the pressure make them do utterly stupid things and slip to an unlikely defeat. The definitive South Africa choke was of course the 1999 World Cup semi-final and that run out. Since then, there's been the 2003 World Cup where they comically misread the Duckworth-Lewis par score and ended one short, the 2007 World Cup saw a similar scenario to today, as Australia strangled them to an under par score then chased down with ease. Their last big choke was the 2011 World Cup, where New Zealand strangled and intimidated them through aggressive fielding.

Oh, it was a choke alright

Some people will say that the pressure got to them. Certainly, some of the shots were particularly brainless. AB de Villiers played a horrific swipe at Broad, JP Duminy tried to cut a ball zeroing in on his off-stump, and various straight balls from James Tredwell were flapped and poked at. They may not have choked from a position of strength in this match, but maybe they let the semi-final get to them.

Panic, not choke

Early on South Africa were 4-2, with two wickets down to good balls, What was needed was calm accumulation. They did that for a while, then panicked and got themselves out again. At no point were they in control. You can't choke if you're never in charge.

Does it matter?

Yes, and no. Of course it's always fun to laugh at another South Africa choke, but this time round they never had a good enough side to beat England on home turf. They were missing Smith, Kallis, Steyn and Morkel, and crucial players like Amla were never good enough. The ghost of tournament failure will continue to haunt over them.

Verdict

Panic, not choke, but tell them it's a choke and it will keep happening.

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