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 takes a run for Allan Donald fails to make his crease at the other end, 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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© ESPN EMEA Ltd.

Comments: 47 
Posted by INDFAN1 on (March 27, 2011, 15:25 GMT)

2002 champions trophy v india

Posted by   on (March 27, 2011, 12:23 GMT)

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

Posted by   on (March 27, 2011, 12:10 GMT)

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

Posted by   on (March 27, 2011, 7:47 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, 7:05 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, 6:01 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.

Posted by MJ1234 on (March 26, 2011, 8:09 GMT)

I knew you would put up this list. You can add y'day's match and keep it handy for the next ICC event.

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 7:22 GMT)

I dont think that SA match against ENG in 2011 WC will go as a choke..match against NZ is called the Choke o

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 7:20 GMT)

dont foreget the Titan Cup fonal against India. ^ matches unbeaten and then final lost

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 6:57 GMT)

Nice article but slightly unfair on the South Africans. To be fair 1996 was a great knock by lara and a decent Windies team while 2003 they were up against a good Sri lankan side and honestly i do not understand the logic behind 2007 loss to Austrailia they were just outplayed by a vastly superior team like we were in 2003 WC finals, i do not consider those as chokes.Well India choked in the semi finals vs Sri lanka in 1996 from a winnable position, India lost to New Zealand in 1999 nairobi finals from a commanding position. They are a decent team and nation in transition give them a break Brickhill and talya

Posted by SwaZim on (March 26, 2011, 6:50 GMT)

I cannot believe that there is such a witch hunt regarding the Proteas! How about detailing every other team who has failed to reach the semis or the finals? Aren't they ALL chokers? Give the Proteas credit where it is due and admit that they were beaten by the better team on the day. Cricket is a sport, so for God's sake, let's be true sportspeople - well done New Zealand, bad luck Proteas - I so enjoyed the ride!

Posted by NALINWIJ on (March 26, 2011, 6:44 GMT)

1992 SF cannot be counted as this was due to a ridiculous rule that was replaced by Duckworth Lewis that did not lose credibility in the 2003 as it called a cliffhanger a tie.THE 1999 RESULT IN CRICKET WC WAS IDENTICAL TO RUGBY WC AND the rugby team is not called chokers as they won WC in 1995 and 2007. In 1999 cricket and rugby WCs ended similarly. AUS,NZ and SA made semis. NZ lost their SFs and AUS and SA were tied at full time but AUS progressed to the final.[winning the rugby in extra time]. Aus won both WCs comfortably.IN this match yesterday they lost from a winning position against the underdog and hence the real choke.

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 6:20 GMT)

As a South African this is yet another sad day in this country. NZ deserved to win as they stayed composed throughout the game where we couldnt take the pressure.

Posted by addiemanav on (March 26, 2011, 6:17 GMT)

it seems they are not destined to win the wc!!maybe they need to go out for another 20 yrs and comeback with some luck and nerves!!feel really sorry for them!!they r generally the best side of competition before they choke in a knockout!!this word just keeps haunting them time and again!!

Posted by DSUS on (March 26, 2011, 6:00 GMT)

Hero Cup Semi-final v/s India. I was at Eden Gardens to watch that. It was breathtaking

Posted by sairek11 on (March 26, 2011, 5:54 GMT)

How can the HERO CUP match with India be ignored. That should really take the cake.

Posted by UrKiddingMe on (March 26, 2011, 5:33 GMT)

And I still can't believe they choked again against the kiwis!

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 5:31 GMT)

Our minds choke when we analyse SA losses! The 1996 loss was due to a brilliant Lara performance and his 140 odd partnership with Chanderpaul which made WI put up a good total on a difficult pitch. To include 2003 tragi-comedy in the choke list is a travesty of truth. Boucher 'won' but Pollock and others in the dressing room lost it. Tell me how many knew the nuances of DLM score till then? In 2007 Australia was a formidable/almost invincible side. Everyone lost to them. So why only SA gets the choker tag? IMO it is we - media, critics, fans - that have applied the choker tag only to SA every time they lose but not to others who lost big matches. They lost nor more often because they were the next best team to Australia! We labeled them; they lived 'up' to the tag! Kind of self fulfilling prophecy. Please stop calling SA chokers! They will win against all comers at all stages.

Posted by Gautamkamath on (March 26, 2011, 4:48 GMT)

What about the Hero Cup semifinal in 93 vs. India at the Eden Gardens? SA needed 6 off the last over (5 to tie) and managed to get just 3.

Posted by harshthakor on (March 26, 2011, 4:43 GMT)

I can't express my unhapiness over history repeating itself yesterday against New Zealand.South Africa just seem destined to lose the World Cup.For the third time they have been the best side arguably in the qualifying stages but have not won the semi or quarter finals.In the past it was simply the case of temperament and lacking match-winning killer instinct like in 1996 and 1999.Infact they won quite a few tournaments between World cups like the triangular tournament down under in 2002,the Sharjah Cup ,I.C.C trophy etc.It proves a special temperament and match-winning flair is required to win a World Cup and not just team balance.It was this quality that enabled teams like Pakistan,Australia ,Sri Lanka and India to win world cups as dark horses.

Another match I cannot forget is their choking in the final of the titan cup in 1996 in India after seeming invincible.

Posted by Guduji71 on (March 26, 2011, 4:19 GMT)

They are very unlucky team in the world. SA is such good team to me they should have won so many titles but their choking issue has let them down.

Posted by LALITHKURUWITA on (March 26, 2011, 2:17 GMT)

A team like Black Caps is sitting just above minnows. Bot hot favorites SA loose by 49 runs without giving any fight. I think Black Caps exceptional fielding made the difference on this day. Every team has at least a bad day for every 10 days. But for SA this particular bad day falls on a KO match for last 6 WC's. SA in cricket likes ALL BLACKS in RUGBY.

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 1:32 GMT)

i was praying for s.a team but wht have they done

Posted by Raw_We on (March 26, 2011, 0:43 GMT)

it all started with the hero cup semi final when sachin bowled that memorable final over.

P.S - Kallis > Sachin.

Posted by   on (March 26, 2011, 0:25 GMT)

SA self destructive world cup Games

Posted by DonkieHoed on (March 26, 2011, 0:20 GMT)

Yup, we choked. Gutted. Disgusting 'performance' by the Proteas.

Posted by ToTellUTheTruth on (March 25, 2011, 23:56 GMT)

May be that un-achievable target of 22 runs off one ball was the ominous sign for SA. May be that was the curse that was placed on them to indicate, they will NEVER qualify for the higher honors....as good as they were. It is interesting that in all these losses, they were always "chasing".

Posted by Raja.Khurram on (March 25, 2011, 23:55 GMT)

Add to the list the 1992 mis-fortune and the award of MOST_CAPABLE_TEAM_NOT_REACHING_A_WC_FINAL goes to South Africa :D

Posted by snkhan on (March 25, 2011, 22:26 GMT)

Its just that SA had a very very bad day.. its very sad that they have lost this match and also knocked out of the tournament but the world cup is not the end of the world, I am sure that SA will do it sooner or later... with such talent they can now aim for being the No. 1 in the ICC... hard luck SA! better luck next time...

Posted by Amu123 on (March 25, 2011, 21:28 GMT)

the 2011 match with England well did not hurt them (they anyways topped the group) as the others did.... but after the 1999 incident, yesterday has to be the worse for SA.... this was the best chance they had with aussies gone,,,, well, what more surprises has this WC got for us??? up set by England to SL, & NZ winning the cup???

Posted by PradeepSandra on (March 25, 2011, 21:02 GMT)

are we going to ever see a change in this trend?

Posted by RemyLeBeau on (March 25, 2011, 20:54 GMT)

They were also favorites, and an unbeaten team, going into the World T20 2009 semifinal against Pakistan, where they were then outplayed and hence knocked out of the tournament.

Posted by rahulcricindia on (March 25, 2011, 20:53 GMT)

this is just unbelievable....poor south africa

Posted by LeftBrain on (March 25, 2011, 20:29 GMT)

No matter how nice and sweet words writers and commentators around the world, and cricket administrators and players of South Africa come up with, the fact of the matter is there is some thing seriously wrong with the way South Africa play their cricket, govern their cricket and think about their cricket. If a country has failed to produce one single super quality performance in itsd entire history, a performance that matter, a performance that steal the show, a performance that converts players into heros, their pught to be some thibng seriously wrong some where. Accept it or not, South Africa has yet to produce a single talent since its re-admission who can blow out opposition single handedly, who can win matches out of no where. Kallis is a great all rounder, but he lacks killer punch, rest are all mediocre. May be it is just the simple fact that South Africa, accept it or not, just dont have the talent. the real talent, they appear good, but fail at every sngle big occasion.

Posted by Stark62 on (March 25, 2011, 20:21 GMT)

Today's one was a bigger choke then, at least two of them (above mentioned)!

Seriously, they were like the team that everyone feared in the group stages and were pretty much ruthless in their play, especially against the minnows.

But I guess they will always C!

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 20:12 GMT)

what about t20 World cup semi final against pakistan... that was massive

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 19:42 GMT)

In the hindsight the loss to England perfectly illustrated the team's weaknesses and foreshadowed the manner of their demise against New Zealand. The batting was light going in to the tournament, with no quality at 7 and 8, and that deficiency was exposed tonight.

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 19:32 GMT)

Poor South Africa, but it's a nice phenomenon for global cricket!

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 19:27 GMT)

Each one of them are so facepalm worthy, it's not even funny...

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 19:14 GMT)

You have forgotten the Inaugural T20 world cup where South Africa lost to India to make way for New Zealand in semis whereas South Africa was dead sure of making it to the semis before the start of the match.

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 19:03 GMT)

Dont forget the 3 run over by Sachin in 1992..

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 19:01 GMT)

An honourable mention for the Malinga game in the Super Eights in 2007, they almost found a way to lose that game as well

Posted by   on (March 25, 2011, 18:48 GMT)

Poor team. they disappoint us in a very big way .

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