Can South Africa end their World Cup trophy drought?
Birmingham: June 17, 1999 – Australia vs South Africa, 2nd semi-final
Nine runs were needed off the last over. With one wicket remaining, Australia should have been the clear favourites, but there stood one man – Lance Klusener – who had single-handedly brought South Africa into a winning position. Damien Fleming was under pressure and he offered slightest width off his first two balls and Zulu drilled them past the off-side field for two boundaries. The scores were tied and South Africa needed just one more run to reach their maiden World Cup final. What happened one ball later is history as Allan Donald was run-out in the most unfortunate manner.
We saw two familiar sights that day – Australians celebrating yet another entry to the World Cup final and a dejected South African dressing room, after having missed out on another winning opportunity.
Just weeks ahead of the ICC World Cup 2015, South Africa once again showed why despite having a poor record at the ICC's pinnacle event, taking them lightly could prove to be suicidal.
As if the internal politics wasn't sufficient to lower the morale of the West Indies team, the AB de Villiers-led side inflicted more pain by making a mockery of their inexperienced bowling attack in the second ODI played at Johannesburg.
AB led from the front and bettered Corey Anderson's record of a 36-ball ton with an incredible innings, where he rushed to the three-figure mark in just 31 balls.
Few days ago, Australian legend Adam Gilchrist hailed AB 'as the most valuable cricketer on the planet.' Just few days later, the Proteas showed why he deserved such praise.
While de Villiers is undoubtedly a genius batsman, South Africa have more firepower in Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis. These are batsmen who are breaking records at a fine pace. While Amla became the fastest batsman to reach 5,000 ODI runs, Faf is someone who has shared the onus of scoring runs with these two batsmen. The trio of AB (2), Faf (3) and Amla (5) collectively scored ten ODI centuries in 2014. Considering the number and the situation he often comes to bat in, AB's seven half-centuries make his performances look monumental.
In the bowling department, South Africa have another deadly trio in Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander. While the likes of Mitchell Johnson and James Anderson have stirred a debate as to who is the best bowler in world cricket, Steyn is someone who is undoubtedly the most consistent with both pace and line and length.
Having said all that, South Africa's biggest challenge would be to overcome precarious situations, during which they have crumbled several times in the past.
Sections of the cricket fraternity, along with fans, have mocked them by calling them chokers. It's a tag, which for sure would be humiliating for a squad that boasts of some of the finest cricketers in world cricket.
When Lance Klusener was run-out in that historic semi-final, it wasn't just a heartbreak for the South African camp, but for all those cricket fans, who wanted South Africa to be the winning team. It was a match, which is still discussed among the fans and the experts, who realise how close South Africa were to putting their hands on the prestigious trophy that has eluded them for so long.
Klusener had been in phenomenal form right throughout the series and it was a disappointing end for him and his team that had played quality cricket and had fallen inches short of reaching the final.
Like previous years, this time too, the Proteas look like a strong contender for the World Cup.
No matter which country you support, this is probably one squad, whose winning the World Cup wouldn't leave you in tatters. It wouldn't be wrong to say, that we all want to see South Africa win a World Cup someday.
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