South Africa have never before reached a Cricket World Cup final, falling at the semi-final stage on four previous occasions; they take on Australia in the second semi-final of the 2023 tournament – watch live on Sky Sports Cricket from 8am Thursday (8.30am first ball)
Image: Allan Donald and Lance Klusener could not get South Africa over the line against Australia in an epic semi-final at Edgbaston in 1999
South Africa and the tag of ‘Cricket World Cup chokers’ have long been synonymous, with the Proteas suffering four semi-final defeats ranging from the agonising, to the embarrassing and the down-right ridiculous.
As the team prepare to finally rid themselves of the moniker as they prepare to face Australia in the second semi-final of the 2023 tournament, in Kolkata on Thursday – live on Sky Sports Cricket from 8am – we look back on those previous near-misses.
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Donald forgets his bat in Edgbaston epic!
South Africa vs Australia, Edgbaston – June 17, 1999
We simply have to start here. South Africa’s second World Cup semi-final exit at Edgbaston in 1999 is certainly the most excruciating, and it’s the first of two to come against their opponents on Thursday, Australia.
The image of last man Allan Donald run out, stranded halfway down the wicket having forgotten his bat at the non-striker’s end – when just a single was required from four deliveries – will live long in the memory.
The man himself told Sky Sports: “We will never have the chokers tag off our back until we win an official ICC event.
“Until that happens, we will never be forgotten for what happened in 1999.”
Match tied – Australia progress to final
Australia 213 all out in 49.2 overs: Michael Bevan (65), Steve Waugh (56); Shaun Pollock (5-36), Allan Donald (4-32)
South Africa 213 all out in 49.4 overs: Jacques Kallis (53), Jonty Rhodes (43), Lance Klusener (31no); Shane Warne (4-29)
Donald added, reflecting further on that excruciating loss: “I saw this girl [in the crowd] with her face in her hands bawling her eyes out. That dressing room was disgusting, it was awful. No one said a word for 40 minutes.
“I really struggled coming to terms with it in the following months. I actually went and saw a psychologist.”
Donald’s torment is understandable given that the game was absolutely there for the taking.
Chasing a target of 214 to set up a showdown with Pakistan in the final, South Africa rallied from 61-4 to 144-4 heading into the final 10 overs, requiring only 70 further runs.
Jonty Rhodes departed three balls later and Jacques Kallis for 53 in the 45th over, but enter Lance Klusener – averaging over 100 in the tournament – who, despite wickets continuing to tumble at the other end, appeared to be firing the team to victory with a boundary-laden cameo which included two off the first two balls of Damien Fleming’s final over, tying the scores.
Image: Lance Klusener was seemingly providing the match-winning cameo for South African until disaster struck in the final over
One to win, four deliveries to get it, Australia reeling. Surely just find a gap, scamper through and get into the showpiece game? Or not.
Donald was given a warning when sauntering out of his crease to the third ball of the over, only to survive as Darren Lehmann’s throw from mid-on missed the stumps. He would not be so fortunate as Klusener again miscued the fourth, to mid-off this time, and called Donald through.
That Donald did, eventually, after some considerable confusion that saw him leave behind his bat. Meanwhile, Mark Waugh threw the ball to Fleming, who rolled it to Adam Gilchrist and he whipped off the bails to secure a tie, a result that sent Australia to the final where they would emerge victorious.
All-conquering Australia crush Proteas in 2007
South Africa vs Australia, Saint Lucia – April 25, 2007
Eight years later, it was Australia again who ended South Africa’s quest for a first World Cup final appearance, though on this occasion it was all far more straight forward.
Image: South Africa collapsed to a humbling seven-wicket defeat to Australia's all-conquering side at the 2007 Cricket World Cup
Australia in 2007 were a far more formidable team, the two-time reigning champions deep into a 34-match unbeaten run in World Cups that included an 83-run win over the Proteas earlier in the group stage out in the West Indies.
Having been burned by Messers Hayden, Ponting and Clarke in that first meeting – the former blasting a 66-ball century and the latter two both notching scores in the nineties – South Africa elected to bat first in the semi-final but it made absolutely no difference to the outcome.
Australia beat South Africa by seven wickets
South Africa 149 all out in 43.5 overs: Justin Kemp (49no), Herschelle Gibbs (39); Shaun Tait (4-39), Glenn McGrath (3-18)
Australia 153-3 in 31.3 overs: Michael Clarke (60no), Matthew Hayden (41); Shaun Pollock (1-16), Andre Nel (1-31)
Graeme Smith’s side were bowled out for 149 in 43.5 overs, the captain the first to fall – bowled by Nathan Bracken in the third over – to set the tone for the carnage to come.
The pacey Shaun Tait was the pick of the bowlers, taking 4-39, while the evergreen Glenn McGrath – who would retire after Australia’s third-straight World Cup win – claimed 3-18, including bagging Ashwell Prince and Mark Boucher in back-to-back deliveries to drop South Africa to 27-5 inside 10 overs.
Image: Glenn McGrath celebrates his second wicket in as many balls as he picks up Mark Boucher in the 2007 semi-final against South Africa
Justin Kemp only just survived the hat-trick delivery, opting not to play at one that skimmed by knee-shakingly close to his off stump. But it was ultimately he who gave his side any sort of half respectable total to bowl at as he hung around for 90 further deliveries, adding 49 before he ran out of partners.
In reply, Charl Langeveldt bowled Adam Gilchrist with his first ball to briefly rattle Australia, while Ponting was added by Andre Nel relatively cheaply to end the ninth over, but a composed half-century from Clarke would end the contest as early as the 32nd over – a most emphatic of seven-wicket victories.
Elliott breaks South African hearts in 2015
South Africa vs New Zealand, Auckland – March 24, 2015
South Africa’s most recent World Cup semi-final stumble came against co-hosts New Zealand in 2015 when Johannesburg-born Grant Elliott’s cool-headed 84 not out earned the Black Caps a four-wicket victory on Duckworth-Lewis method in a cracking, rain-affected clash in Auckland.
Image: Grant Elliott celebrates as a disconsolate Dale Steyn collapses to the floor after New Zealand's semi-final win over South Africa in 2015
Elliott held his nerve in the final over, smashing Dale Steyn for the game-clinching six off the penultimate ball of the match, when four further runs were required.
New Zealand had earlier restricted South Africa to 281-5, their target readjusted to 298 in a match reduced to 43-overs-a-side, only for the Black Caps to successfully pull off the highest run-chase in a World Cup knockout game.
New Zealand beat South Africa by four wickets (Duckworth-Lewis)
South Africa 281-5 in 43 overs: Faf du Plessis (71), AB de Villiers (47); Corey Anderson (3-72), Trent Boult (2-53)
New Zealand 299-6 in 42.5 overs: Grant Elliott (84no), Brendon McCullum (59), Corey Anderson (58); Morne Morkel (3-59)
South Africa, who chose to bat first, stumbled out of the blocks to 31-2 – Trent Boult seeing off both openers – inside the first eight overs, before Faf du Plessis (82) and AB de Villiers (65no) rallied the innings, paving the way for David Miller to later smash 49 off just 18 deliveries as a massive 65 runs came off the final five overs of the innings.
A certain Brendon McCullum went all ‘Bazball’ for the Black Caps to kick-start their reply, racing through to a 22-ball half-century with a six off Steyn, and powering the team to a staggering 71-0 from the opening five overs.
Image: Brendon McCullum blasted a 22-ball half century at the top of the order for New Zealand to kick-start their run chase
Leg-spinner Imran Tahir halted the flow of runs with a maiden and McCullum fell in the next over and, by the 22nd over, New Zealand had stumbled to a much more modest 149-4 off 21.4 overs.
That saw Elliott joined in the middle by Corey Anderson (58) and the pair forged a crucial century stand for the fifth wicket, making the most of a missed run-out chance with 94 runs still needed.
Anderson, on 33 at the time, was well short of his ground at the non-striker’s end after being sent back by Elliott only for De Villiers to break the stumps with his hands rather than the ball.
Elliott too enjoyed a couple of huge slices of luck; Quinton de Kock missed with another run-out chance with 27 runs required, while JP Duminy ran in to substitute fielder Farhaan Behardien when he was about to pouch Elliott with 14 more needed from seven deliveries.
The miss proved crucial as Elliott kept his composure to strike the winning blow in the final over.
Rain provides farcical finish to 1992 semi-final
South Africa vs England, Sydney – March 22, 1992
Farce reigned supreme in the first of South Africa’s semi-final failures in Sydney, 1992.
Before the days of the Duckworth-Lewis method, South Africa required 22 for victory from 13 balls against England before a short, sharp rain delay saw that equation revised to 22 needed from a solitary delivery under the ‘Most Productive Overs’ method upon the resumption of play.
Image: South Africa were knocked out by England in the 1992 semi-final in Sydney in farcical scenes following a rain delay
Despite the considerable protests of Brian McMillan – 20 not out at the time – he and David Richardson were forced to see out the pointless final ball, McMillan clipping a single out to midwicket before shaking hands with England captain Graham Gooch as he trudged off disconsolate.
England’s luck had been in from the start when, after the early loss of Gooch and Ian Botham, Graeme Hick survived a strong lbw shout and was then caught off a no-ball before powering his way to 83 off 90 balls – the mainstay innings of his side’s 252-6 from 45 overs.
England beat South Africa by 19 runs
England 252-6 in 45 overs: Graeme Hick (83); Meyrick Pringle (2-36), Allan Donald (2-69), Mark Wood (2-70)
South Africa 232-6 in 43 overs: Andrew Hudson (46), Jonty Rhodes (43); Richard Illingworth (2-46), Gladstone Small (2-51)
The total would have been greater but for South Africa’s slow over-rate, which denied England five valuable overs at the death, leaving Chris Lewis and Dermot Reeve (25no off 14 balls) rather cut short as they prepared a final onslaught.
South Africa’s chase kept up with the run-rate, as Andrew Hudson (46) bedded in, but was always held in check as wickets fell at regular intervals, Richard Illingworth (2-46) and Gladstone Small (2-51) picking up a couple apiece.
A 43-run cameo from Jonty Rhodes reduced the target to 47 from five overs before McMillan and Richardson brought that to within four big blows with just over two overs remaining before the rain arrived and sealed South Africa’s fate.
Image: England captain Graham Gooch sympathises with Brian McMillan of South Africa after their controversial win in the 1992 semi-final
It would not be the last time that the weather and some poor sums would scupper the Proteas at a World Cup as, when hosting in 2003, Shaun Pollock’s charges were dumped out at the group stage after a Duckworth-Lewis miscalculation that led them to believe they were beating Sri Lanka when in actual fact they were only tied in the must-win match.
At least South Africa should avoid the weather intruding on this occasion, with the sweltering surroundings of Kolkata playing host to their semi-final against Australia on Thursday.
Can they finally banish their semi-final demons and rid themselves of their World Cup chokers tag?
Watch South Africa take on Australia in the second Cricket World Cup semi-final, in Kolkata, live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event from 8am on Thursday (8.30am first ball).
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