Sydney: Keen to shrug-off the chokers tag, AB de Villiers-led South Africa will look to achieve a first by winning a knockout match at the World Cup when they lock horns with Sri Lanka in the high-voltage first quarterfinal clash at the Sydney Cricket Ground, here tomorrow.
It was in 1992 that Proteas’ ill-fated knockout exits started following the Kepler Wessels-led side’s loss against England after it was left to chase 21 runs off the final ball post a Duckworth/Lewis rain rule that came into effect, ironically at the SCG.
The series of near-misses continued for the woeful South African side and its semi-final exit in 1999 probably was the most painful after Australia edged them out on net run-rate in a tied game.
The current side will also try to forget the 2003 World Cup finish on home soil when a failure to correctly interpret the Duckworth/Lewis rain rule meant they bowed out at the group stage after a dramatic tie with Sri Lanka in Durban.
In 2011, they suffered a surprise quarter-final defeat to New Zealand.
But tomorrow is another day and de Villiers will be looking to turn over a new page in the South African cricket calender with a well-balanced side at his disposal.
“All I can say is we’re not going to choke tomorrow. We’re going to play a good game of cricket and come out on top. Simple,” he told reporters at the SCG today.
“How do we approach it? We think we’ve just got to try and play a good game of cricket,” said the in-form batsman, who scored a stunning 162 not out against the West Indies in the pool stage at this very venue.
If the batting boasts of Hashim Amla and de Villiers then the bowling rides high on the brilliance of pace spearhead Dale Steyn.
But can they demonstrate their undeniable talent in the knockouts is a question that is bothering many a Proteas fan.
Sri Lanka on the other hand have a fine record in knockout matches. The reigning World T20 champions also appeared in the last two World Cup finals and won the tournament back in 1996.
The Angelo Mathews-led side also looks to possess the necessary arsenal to go all the way in this edition.
Tournaments leading run-scorer Kumar Sangakkara (496 runs in 6 games), who has hit record four consecutive ODI tons coming into the match, is enough to invoke fear in any bowling line-up.
Opener Tilakaratne Dilshan has also been a force to reckon with two centuries in this tournament and the bowling always looks good with the ever-dependable Lasith Malinga leading the charge.
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