Whoever has been firm on their stand that the tag of South Africa being chokers is a myth should change their opinion at least after having watched the Proteas batting crumble against Pakistan at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday. They had lost chasing earlier as well, against India in their second game of the tournament. But, one could give them the benefit of the doubt since on that occasion they were chasing a 300 plus target. However, against Pakistan, the game was theirs for the taking, if only their batsmen put up a sensible show. Unfortunately, and nor for the first time, they succumbed while chasing.
The manner in which they floundered against Pakistan was another clear illustration of the fact that, in spite of having some of the best batsmen in the business, they are not quite as good as they seem, as AB de Villiers himself admitted post the game. And, this observation has proved to be true time and again, especially while chasing. Even if they had beaten Pakistan at Auckland, it couldn’t have changed much of an impression about South Africa’s skills under pressure. After all, they were chasing only a modest total. But, the fact that they lost will only raise further question marks about their ability.
Although most of their batsmen are in form, South Africa have a massive problem at the top of the order. Their opener for the tournament Quinton de Kock has now failed to reach double digits in five consecutive matches of the World Cup. South Africa can ill-afford such a non-performing batsman right at the top of the order. Lack of runs from him inevitably means that the pressure grows on Hashim Amla. And, on days like the tense atmosphere at Auckland, a poor start can hurt the team badly. It did.
South Africa clearly need to have a relook at their team combination. Someone else needs to step into de Kock’s opening shoes. Their fifth bowling is also a major worry with Vernon Philander injured and Wayne Parnell struggling with the ball. JP Duminy and de Villiers had to chip in with 10 overs at Auckland, and they went for many. However, more pertinently, the likes of Duminy, David Miller and Rilee Rossouw need to prove that they good chasing under pressure. While it would be unfair to point a finger at Hashim Amla, it is a fact that he failed both against India and Pakistan.
Though South Africa crumbled under pressure, it must be stated that Pakistan’s bowlers put up an extremely inspired show on the day. Their bowling had shown glimpses of promise in the earlier matches, but at Auckland, it all fell together. The trio of Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz and Rahat Ali combined to dismantle the South African batting. It was a brilliant team bowling effort that has revived Pakistan in this World Cup. The three mentioned above never let the Proteas batsmen off the hook although they weren’t defending a big score. Pakistan’s unpredictably and South Africa’s choke combined to produce a high-intensity clash.
--By A Cricket Analyst