South Africa has been, for a glaring majority of its return to international cricket in 1992, a team that has hovered below
A fine run in the 1996 World Cup ended in a dismal middle-order collapse against the innocuous spin of Roger Harper and Jimmy Adams in the quarterfinals; a 1-0 lead over Australia in the Carlton & United Series of 1997/98 ended in a 2-1 defeat; against Sri Lanka in the final of the Singer Triangular, the middle order collapsed to Muttiah Muralitharan; and in the first semi-final of the 2002-03 ICC Champions Trophy against India – ironically, the epitome of the word choker - South Africa were 192 for 1 chasing 262, but ended up losing by 10 runs.
And then there was that match. June 17, 1999, a blasphemy that will forever be etched in
You know this one all too well. One run – yes, one run – to pull of an amazing win and entry into the World Cup finals, an ungainly pull, a fielder with 289 international catches to his name swooping in, a premature dash down the pitch, a bad call…..you know the rest. And this, four days after Herschelle Gibbs let Steve Waugh off the hook in what was the former Australian captain’s most crucial one-day hundred. They just didn’t learn, these South Africans.
Lance Klusener, the man who had carried his side to the semis, was never the same after his heartbreaking
Klusener’s was a difficult void to fill, and his decline summed up the state of affairs for a side desperate to overcome Cronjegate and the tag of chokers. Much has happened since Cronje’s exile and then death in a tragic plane crash. Racial quotas and bipartisan policies have seen an exodus to the
These were frustrating times for those playing for
This was the singular defining moment of positivism post the Cronje era. Here was someone fresh, with no baggage, no legacy. It looked to many as if it could backfire, but to those who truly understood South African cricket, Smith’s appointment was redemption from the past. Smith has given his all to the captaincy, and despite brief hiccups, has batted with purpose and led with grit – despite the cusses of Stephen Fleming. He speaks his mind and wears his heart where all can see; not on his sleeve but on his chest.
Make no mistakes – this is a very professional South African unit. After dropping five in a row to