23 March 2015
South Africa Quarter-Final Review
The seven ways AB de Villiers’ 11 “obsessed” men created history at the ICC Cricket World Cup
For South Africa, the knockout win was special, but something far bigger beckons.
As skipper AB de Villiers aptly put it after the match, the Proteas players went in “obsessed” with their goal and dominated proceedings from ball one.
“The boys were very motivated for this game, they really rocked up mentally and we were almost obsessed with our goal,” de Villiers said in his post-match press conference.
Here are the seven ways AB de Villiers’ 11 “obsessed” men made history:
1. Sent into the field
The toss was considered a hugely important one to win. The team batting first had won seven of the last eight matches between the two sides, while the Proteas’ two losses during the pool stage came when they were chasing.
Sri Lanka fans erupted when Angelo Mathews won the toss, said he’d have a bat and declared the pitch a good batting track.
De Villiers said after the match he too would have batted, adding “I would have backed the batters to do a good job (but) I’m really happy we bowled first”.
It was considered a massive toss to win. Until the South African pace attack started bowling.
2. Quinton de Kock’s catch
The opening combination of Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott made their intentions clear from ball one.
They bowled like men possessed while the South Africa fielders also appeared to have lifted to a level of intensity above what they had shown throughout the tournament to date.
Quinton de Kock’s brilliant diving catch in the second over started it all for the Proteas.
His initial grab was unsuccessful but he recovered to complete a spectacular take.
Had it tumbled from his gloves and let Kusal Perera off the hook, a hint of doubt may have started to creep into the minds of the South African players. But it stuck and an interesting decision to change its opening partnership did not pay off for Sri Lanka.
The Proteas’ wicketkeeper had struggled with the bat before the match and although his work with the gloves remained solid, it took a player full of self-belief to pull off that catch.
3. Steyn’s roar
Three overs of intense and tight bowling later, Tillakaratne Dilshan edged a ball towards Faf du Plessis in the slips. He snatched a very low catch in the nick of time, but had it fallen just a couple of inches shorter it could have been a much different story.
If de Villiers’ said his men were “obsessed” heading into the match, there was no one this description fitted better than Dale Steyn.
Du Plessis took the catch. Steyn stopped. He threw his head back. His eyes bulged. And he roared.
A man known for his good nature off the field, something changes in Steyn when he walks on to a cricket field. He becomes, frankly, terrifying.
For anyone holding doubts about the intentions and intensity of South Africa heading into the knockout match, this moment wiped them away.
4. Tahir’s player of the match performance
Imran Tahir was a close second to de Villiers for man of the match the last time the Proteas played at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
His bowling was magnificent again on Wednesday and his celebrations upon picking up the wickets of Lahiru Thirimanne, Mahela Jayawardene, Thisara Perera and Lasith Malinga possibly managed to outdo Steyn’s for their enthusiasm.
The 35-year-old, who was an under-19s player for Pakistan before finding his way to South Africa, said after the match: “To play for this team is just an absolute honour and I think every wicket I take is just for South Africa, for me, and it's just given me such joy.”
This time, he quite rightly took home the player-of-the-match award for his 4-26 off 8.2 overs.
5. JP’s Hat-trick
The Proteas’ lack of a fifth full-time bowler has been one of the question marks hanging over the team through the tournament.
When it mattered on the Sydney Cricket Ground in a knockout final, it was JP Duminy who stepped up to the plate, snaring South Africa’s first World Cup hat-trick and only its second in ODIs.
His first wicket came off the final ball of the 33rd over, so after he grabbed the wicket of Nuwan Kulasekara, his teammates were not even aware he was on a hat-trick.
“He came up to me and said, ‘I’m on a hat-trick, do you think you could give me another catcher?’” de Villiers recalled afterwards.
“No one else knew. We told them afterwards.”
Credit must go to Kulasekara. He handed Duminy the second wicket of his hat-trick when he walked after offering a slight edge to de Kock. Had he stayed and not been given out, the Proteas would have been unable to review, having already wasted their opportunity on an LBW decision earlier in the innings.
6. Quinton de Kock’s batting
Plenty has been said about de Kock’s form through the tournament. After suffering an ankle injury late last year, he struggled for form.
He scored 3 and 2 in the warm-up games, before scores of 7, 1, 12, 1 and 0 in the first five pool games.
De Kock showed signs of batting himself back into form against United Arab Emirates when he scored 26 from 45 balls, but it was hardly a fluent innings from the wicketkeeper-batsmen.
The selectors kept their faith in the talented 22-year-old and it paid off in spades on Wednesday.
Hashim Amla made his intentions known from the start, striking the first ball of South Africa’s chase for four, De Kock was quick to follow suit, working his way to 22* when the break was taken.
Then, he returned to the crease as he’d left it, sending the first ball from Malinga to the boundary rope.
He made a well-deserved fifty before, fittingly, bringing up the winning runs with his 12th boundary, making history for the Proteas in the process.
“He’s been going through a tough time. We all go through patches in our careers, so credit to the selectors, coaches and players who kept backing him,” de Villiers said after the match.
Other teams have stumbled chasing similar targets this tournament. There were no such hiccups for South Africa today. The Proteas best batsmen was not even required to step up to the crease. De Villiers needs just seven runs to overtake Jacques Kallis as South Africa’s all-time highest World Cup runs scorer, but he did not get a chance to pass the milestone in Sydney.
7. AB de Villiers post-match
For 55.2 overs his team was hungry, his men obsessed.
For the first time in its history, South Africa won a knockout match in a World Cup. After falling from winning positions to devastating losses in previous tournaments, this one never looked in doubt.
But de Villiers played down the importance of the historic achievement after the match. For the Proteas, something far bigger beckons.
“We didn't come all this way to say that we made it to a semi-final of a World Cup,” de Villiers said.
“We want to go all the way as a team, and we believe we have the right group here to achieve that.”
When they stride out on to Eden Park in six days’ time to play with New Zealand or West Indies, except to see 11 “obsessed” men again.
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