For long, South Africa have been regarded as chokers in the World Cup. They lost in 1996 World Cup quarters after winning all their league matches. They tied with Australia in 1999 World Cup semis and lost the final berth. They lost against New Zealand in 2015 World Cup semis. Hence, they deserve the chokers’ tag. But they face a worthy competitor for the choker’s tag in England in the World Cup.
England, who are yet to win a World Cup, too can be placed in the same category. Yes, they can claim to have won a World T20 title in 2010. But in World Cup ODIs, they have been nothing but chokers.
They have lost three World Cup finals so far. They lost to West Indies in 1979 World Cup final, they ended second-best to Australia in 1987 World Cup final and ended runner-up in 1992 World Cup final to Pakistan. They are yet to make World Cup semis since the 1992 World Cup final loss. No other team has lost three WC finals. Australia have lost two, but have won five titles as well.
England were ousted from the group stage in the 2015 World Cup. Since then, they have restructured their ODIs set up and emerged the No 1 ODI team in the run-up to the 2019 World Cup.
But they have shown signs of choking in the 2019 World Cup. They lost two matches while chasing against Pakistan and Sri Lanka when they should have closed out the games comfortably.
The two upsets may come to haunt them in the race for semis as England face tough teams Australia, New Zealand and India in their remaining games.
If Sri Lanka or Bangladesh or even Pakistan peak now and win their remaining games, while England lose theirs, then Eoin Morgan and Co may have to bid their World Cup chances a goodbye. It’s too far-fetched but it has happened before in the World Cup.
In the 1992 edition, which followed a similar format as the current World Cup, Pakistan ousted defending champions Australia in the race for semis by winning all their remaining three games in the group stage. They also defeated defending champions Australia in their three-match winning run in the group stage before going on to win the title.
Hence, England need to be wary of their approach as they take on tough teams in their remaining three fixtures. They have paid the price of taking lower-ranked teams – Pakistan and Sri Lanka – lightly and another slip or two may hurt their chances of semis if other lower-ranked teams peak in the business end of the tournament.
It would be again a case of too near and too far for England in the World Cup and may eventually shift the choker’s tag from South Africa to them, literally.