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April 25, 2007
The latest chapter in South Africa's sorry World Cup history was put down to a case of stage fright as South Africa once again suffered semi-final heartache at the hands of Australia. The much-vaunted South African top order, including Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith, was back inside the pavilion within the first ten overs as they collapsed to 27 for 5 in a sequence that left some of their former team-mates stunned.
"The first hour was some of the craziest cricket South Africa have ever played," the former batsman Daryll Cullinan said. Haroon Lorgat, South Africa's convenor of selectors, said the wickets had been "very poor, very soft dismissals". "Nobody was up to it today," he said on SuperSport television.
Lorgat feared the team had been undone by nerves despite claims by the coach Mickey Arthur they were not weighed down by past failures, including the 1999 semi-final exit to Australia. "I wonder how much tension was in them despite what Mickey was saying about their calmness," he said, "because I just did not see what I was expecting to see."
His view was echoed by Kepler Wessels, the former captain, who suspected Graeme Smith's pre-match confidence was all a show. "You're always going to be uptight, nervous," he said. "That would have been a common thread, to put on a united front, but everyone would have been pretty tense."
Wessels, who also played for Australia, called for a major rethink of the whole approach to one-day cricket. South Africa have been widely criticised for their lack of a match-winning spin bowler and once again took on the Australians with an all-pace attack that showed little sign of penetration. While Australia's fast men did most of the damage, their spinner Brad Hogg conceded only 24 runs in his 10 overs.
"The Australians outplayed us in every department," Wessels said. "We cannot continue to play such predictable cricket. It's so easy to play South Africa."
South Africa had gone into the tournament as the No. 1-ranked team but Lorgat was among the first to acknowledge they had been completely outplayed by the side they had dislodged from the top spot. "Today we were just flat," he said, "just completely nowhere in the game."
The former batsman Adam Bacher said the gap between the two teams was almost embarrassing. "It was boys against men," he said on public television. "They taught us a cricket lesson."
Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala