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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

AB de Villiers: This can be the year South Africa’s semi-final record changes

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Kolkata: South Africa and World Cup semi-finals have produced so many heartbreaking moments over the years – my hope is that 2023 will be the year that it all changes, said former South Africa cricketer AB de Villiers.

“It is not just that we have played in four of them and lost them all, it is that on each and every occasion, the fates have conspired to make the defeats as painful as possible,” he said

“I was too young for the 1992 and 1999 games but ask anyone about 22 off one and they will know immediately what you are referring to,” De Villiers said.

He said seven years later against the Aussies was even more painful. There is obviously the legend of the Steve Waugh jibe to Herschelle Gibbs about dropping the World Cup, but even after that defeat in the Super Six, South Africa had so many chances in the semi-final.

“Watching the Allan Donald run-out does not get any easier, and we have seen a lot of it this week given that, once again, it is Australia standing in the way of a place in the final,” De Villiers said.

“The first World Cup semi-final that I played in was also against the Aussies, their all-conquering 2007 side. They had already beaten us once, but we still backed ourselves going into the game,” he said.

“The aim was to be aggressive, but after choosing to bat, Glenn McGrath tore through our top order and I fell to Shaun Tait, who was flying that day. We were 27 for five inside ten overs and never able to make it competitive,” De Villiers said.

“My final World Cup game might be the most painful of all from a personal perspective. We had got a big win over Sri Lanka in the quarter-final, a first knockout win, at long last,” he said.

“Against New Zealand, we batted well, Faf du Plessis made big runs, David Miller teed off late on, and I also got a handy score. We thought that defending 298 in 43 overs would be possible, and we had our chances. That day though, our fielding cost us. Grant Elliott played an incredible knock but that one still stings,” De Villiers said.

He said it was eight years ago, and so much has changed from a South African perspective since then. Only Quinton de Kock and David Miller remain from that team. This side, led by Temba Bavuma, looks as well-balanced as anyone in India. The top order are not just in good form, they are turning almost every start into a hundred and four different guys have tons.

“The bowling attack is also spreading around the wickets. Marco Jansen and Lungi Ngidi can take wickets with the new ball, while Kagiso Rabada and Gerald Coetzee have come on and done damage. And that is before we move onto the spin of Keshav Maharaj. If those are the five that end up playing, they will pose Australia some real threats,” De Villiers said

Of course, Australia are always strong and they have responded really well to losing their first two matches. Not that we needed reminding, but Glenn Maxwell’s knock against Afghanistan was ridiculous. It goes without saying that South Africa cannot afford to let him get his eye in, he said.

“The fact we got a huge win over the Aussies in the group stages should give the side confidence but this is a completely different scenario,” De Villiers said.

“We know the toss will be important. When South Africa have batted first, they have won and won big. They have topped 300 every time, and generally by a lot. Chasing has been trickier and there will certainly be a few nerves if they are not able to bat Australia out of the game by halfway,” he said.

“Still, after all the pain and heartbreak, I really feel that now is our time. This is a team that is not carrying the weight of history. There will be pressure because it is a semi-final, but there is no reason why they cannot break new ground and take the team to the big dance for the first time. I really hope they do,” De Villiers added.

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