ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Memorable South African defeats

Struggling for breath ...

ESPNcricinfo looks back at some famous defeats South Africa have slumped to in global tournaments

Liam Brickhill and Siddhartha Talya

March 25, 2011

Comments: 47 | Text size: A | A

Shaun Pollock is distraught after South Africa's elimination, South Africa v Sri Lanka, 40th match, Durban, March 3, 2003
That familiar feeling: South Africa crash out of the 2003 World Cup © Getty Images
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South Africa's remarkable defeat in the Mirpur quarter-final was their fourth loss in six World Cup games against New Zealand and the fifth time they have crashed out of the tournament during a knockout stage. ESPNcricinfo looks back at some other famous defeats South Africa have slumped to in global tournaments.

1996 World Cup quarter-final v West Indies
South Africa stormed into this game as clear favourites, having won all of their group games in the midst of a 10-match winning streak that stretched back to their home series against England earlier that year. West Indies, on the other hand, had just slumped to a humiliating loss to Kenya's amateurs in Pune, and were a team in seemingly terminal decline. The pitch was expected to take turn - and it did - but South Africa made what was, in hindsight, a fatal error in omitting Allan Donald and instead playing an extra spinner in Paul Adams. Brian Lara feasted on both Adams and offspinner Pat Symcox, carrying West Indies to 264 with a blistering hundred. South Africa may have fancied Roger Harper's and Jimmy Adams' offerings after watching their own spinners get tonked in such emphatic fashion, but they combined to take seven wickets, Harper nipping out three in one over, as South Africa collapsed from 140 for 2 to lose by 19 runs and set a trend that continues, inexplicably, to this day.

1999 World Cup semi-final v Australia
On a midsummer's day at Edgbaston that will live in infamy - for South Africans, at least - South Africa and Australia slugged out a game of remarkable twists and about-turns, culminating in one of the most memorable finales in limited-overs history. Chasing Australia's 213, South Africa were scuppered by the single-minded intensity of Shane Warne, who took four wickets, before being brought back from the brink of oblivion by a death-or-glory innings from Lance Klusener. When he bludgeoned consecutive off-side boundaries to take the scores level with four balls remaining, the game was South Africa's to lose ... and, incredibly, they did just that. Klusener ran, Donald didn't, and an ecstatic Australia took South Africa's place in the final. The tie meant that South Africa, for the third World Cup in a row, failed to reach the final despite looking like the team of the tournament in the early stages.

2002 Champions Trophy v India
Perhaps the most remarkable of all of South Africa's crumbles in major matches. South Africa had won the inaugural version of the Champions Trophy in 1998 - their only ICC title success to date - and were coasting towards a place in the final of the 2002 edition. Having limited India to 261 for 9 in Colombo, South Africa were cruising at 192 for 1 in the 37th over, the result seemed a foregone conclusion. The easy task ahead may have prompted Gibbs to retire hurt after suffering from cramps, convinced as he may have been that the others would take his team home. But they were to let him down, and with 21 required off the final over, Sehwag survived a first-ball slog-swept six from Kallis to grab two wickets and leave the South Africans with that familiar feeling.

2003 World Cup v Sri Lanka
The build-up to the 2003 World Cup in South Africa had been massive. Nelson Mandela had featured in the promos, Cape Town hosted a sparkling opening ceremony and this was the country's biggest sporting spectacle since the Rugby World Cup in 1995. It was to end in utter despair. The much-vaunted national team slipped up to lose against West Indies and New Zealand in the preliminary stage and their fortunes hinged on a do-or-die game against Sri Lanka in Durban.


Lance Klusener on his way to an unbeaten 16-ball 31, Australia v South Africa, 2nd semi-final, World Cup, Birmingham, June 17, 1999
That fatal run © PA Photos
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Set a target of 269. Gibbs put them on track with an attacking 77, and even when captain Shaun Pollock was dismissed in the 43rd over to reduce them to 212 for 6 with bad weather swiftly closing in South Africa would have believed they could win. Klusener walked in but made just one in eight balls and as the weather deteriorated, a message was sent to the pair from the dressing room that the score needed to win, according to the Duckworth-Lewis method, had to be 229 at the end of the 45th over with four wickets to spare. What seemed like the decisive blow came off the penultimate ball of that over as Boucher danced out to Muttiah Muralitharan, smashed him over long-on for a flat six, and punched the air in the heavy rain, convinced that South Africa had it covered. The next ball, he gently nudged to midwicket and the umpires called for the covers. Elation was to turn to disbelief in a matter of a few seconds once the realisation dawned upon South Africa that the instructions were wrong. The score of 229 was meant for a tie, not a win. Andrew Hudson, on TV commentary, summed up the feeling. "42 million South Africans are going to bed tonight hoping it was a bad dream".

2007 World Cup semi-final v Australia
Yet again South Africa reached a World Cup knockout, another semi-final, but this time they succumbed to nerves at the gravity of the occasion at the very start of the match rather than during a crunch finale. South Africa's stage fright took shape in a batting display that fell to pieces in wild swipes and mindless adventure. Australia showed they had well and truly won the pre-match mental battle, and the visibly skittish South Africans were demolished by Glenn McGrath and Shaun Tait before Michael Clarke's unbeaten half-century finished the job to hand South Africa their fourth knockout defeat.

2011 World Cup v England
A game of slightly lesser importance but thrilling nevertheless, largely due to another of South Africa's incredible capitulations. The pitch at the MA Chidambaram Stadium may have been tricky but not one deserving of a score of 171, which is what England managed. Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith, in their 64-run opening stand, showed exactly that. The rest of the team, however, was adamant on proving otherwise. Carefully built-up starts were squandered and when, from the seemingly impregnable position of 124 for 3, four wickets fell for three runs in five overs the tide turned. There was still a glimmer of hope for South Africa, Dale Steyn's spirited batting bringing them to within 12 runs of victory with Morne van Wyk. But panic prevailed over determination as van Wyk was snared by Tim Bresnan, and Stuart Broad, in a superb spell, removed Steyn and Morne Morkel in four deliveries to inflict upon South Africa their only defeat, one that kept England's hopes alive, ahead of the quarter-finals.

Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo; Siddhartha Talya is a sub-editor

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Comments: 47 
Posted by INDFAN1 on (March 27, 2011, 14:25 GMT)

2002 champions trophy v india

Posted by   on (March 27, 2011, 11:23 GMT)

bad luck SA. Wish them all the best next WC.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2011, 11:10 GMT)

In 2011 they played VS New Zea land not England....

Posted by   on (March 27, 2011, 6:47 GMT)

The loss to India in the inaugural edition of the T20 world cup comes to my mind. They just needed around 120 odd to qualify for the knock out stage chasing a 140 odd score. Along with failing to win the match they failed to qualify.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2011, 6:05 GMT)

Can't help feeling sorry for SA at this point. But they only have themselves to blame for this debacle. To mess up the chase, from a 100 something for the loss of 2 wickets to a 180 odd all out shows how strong their middle order is..

Posted by Pathiyal on (March 27, 2011, 5:01 GMT)

the result came as an absolute shock to me. NZ had nothing to lose and SA had everything. it happened to be a very bad day for Kallis and AB's run out spoilt their chances. i think Graeme has to concentrate on his opening batting and only that. (not saying he is a bad captain at all). they have to play more matches with NZ and Windies.

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 22:56 GMT)

as a die hard fan of s a i am speechless...oh god...i cant wait another 4 years ...wish i could go back in time and change the scenario....hardluck!!!

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 20:11 GMT)

still cant believe that happened on Friday....i wish it was a bad dream(sigh)

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 14:59 GMT)

2011 South Africa Tour, IND Vs SA match 2nd ODI, where SA lost the match by 1run...

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 8:32 GMT)

Hero Cup semifinal 1993 was perhaps the first show of the patented South-African choke - I still remember that last over vividly ! The story was a bit tighter than the England-SA WC 2011 game.

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