ICC World Cup, quarter-final: Historical drama surrounding South Africa's campaign
After twin defeats at the hands of India and Pakistan, pre-tournament favorites South Africa have certainly lost the air of invincibility around them at the ICC World Cup 2015.
Going in to the tournament, what looked like a strong side with proven match winners with bat and ball, no longer appears to be in the same league as Australia or even New Zealand.
Despite the heroics of AB de Villiers, the Proteas have failed to deal with demons from their past, especially chasing targets against decent bowling attacks.
The dreaded C-word seems to haunt the South Africans in big tournaments. To tread the difficult path from being chokers to champions, AB de Villiers' boys will have to do what none of their predecessors have done – win a knockout game in a World Cup.
The Proteas return to the very same Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday, 13 years after their heartbreaking semi-final loss to England in 1992. Making a debut at the World Cup, then darlings of the cricket world, South Africa needed 22 runs off one ball due to the Duckworth-Lewis rain-rule.
Who can forget their ouster from the 1999 edition in England. The painful memories of a tied semi-final and exit on net run-rate against eventual winners Australia still linger on in the minds of all South African cricket fans.
When cricket's carnival arrived in the rainbow nation in 2003, cricket gods had more ignominy in store for the hosts on their home soil as their incorrect interpretation of the Duckworth-Lewis rule meant they crashed out at the group stage after a dramatic tie with Sri Lanka in Durban.
In 2011, knockout quarter-final clash against New Zealand once again proved to be South Africa's 'Achilles heel' at the World Cup.
The ever-consistent Sri Lankan team has made it to three finals in the last 5 World Cups, making them the most consistent team, behind Australia, in ICC's flagship event.
Though no Sri Lankan skipper has emulated the heroics of Arjuna Ranatunga's men, two defeats in back-to-back finals has left the cricket lovers in the country bitterly disappointed.
Like India in 2011, the islanders will have added motivation to see off arguably two of their greatest players in Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene with undoubtedly the most beautiful farewell by hoisting their second World Cup trophy.
South Africa's story in World Cups so far has been similar to the sudden death of a much-loved character at the end of a book, leaving the reader wanting for more.
To their credit, the eternal favorites of all neutrals have never stopped trying or believing. However, each time, the world is egging them on to finally get past the finish line.
South Africa do not have happy World Cup memories of playing their quarter-final opponents, or for that matter, the venue of their impending battle.
To make history, this generation of South African cricketers will have to shed historical baggage.
Two 'C' words – chokers and champions are often loosely thrown around in sport. But when South Africa take on Sri Lanka at the SCG, another 'C' word – Clutch, could be the key differentiator between jubilation and despair.
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