South Africa will look to shed their big tournament ‘chokers’ tag that has haunted them for long as they go into the first semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy against strong contenders England here on Wednesday in what promises to be a thrilling showdown.
England topped Group A and will play South Africa in the last-four stage. Sri Lanka will take on world champions and Group B toppers India in the second semifinal at Cardiff on Thursday.
For South Africa – often dubbed ‘chokers’ for losing from promising positions – their only ICC trophy came way back in 1998 when they won the inaugural edition of the Champions Trophy, then known as ICC Knock-Out Trophy, in Bangladesh.
Thereafter, the Proteas failed to advance beyond the semifinal stages of major tournaments despite having strong outfits. But come Wednesday, the A B de Villiers-led side would be hoping to turn the tide.
South Africa witnessed a mixed outing in the group stage of the tournament. They lost their opening game to India before getting the better of Pakistan, while their last game against the West Indies ended in a tie.
However, South Africa got a shot in the arm in their last game when pace spearhead Dale Steyn returned to the playing XI after missing the opening two group encounters due to a side strain.
On the batting front, Hashim Amla’s form up the order remains crucial for South Africa as he would be expected to play the sheet-anchor’s role.
Backed by a boisterous home crowd, England, one of the strong contenders for the trophy, will have a clear edge over South Africa.
England had themselves to blame as their strong bowling attack failed to defend an imposing 293 for seven against Sri Lanka. Bowling remains a cause of concern for England.PTI