Now THAT was a proper choke!

Herman Mostert (File)
Herman Mostert (File)
That old dreaded word that South Africa's cricketers so often lament hearing reared its ugly head again in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.

The Proteas, chasing 262 for victory in 45 overs, appeared on course for victory in the second ODI against Pakistan as Hashim Amla (98 off 131 balls) and AB de Villiers (74 off 45 balls) shared a 110-run fourth-wicket partnership.

However, when De Villiers was dismissed with South Africa needing a mere 35 off 39 balls with seven wickets in hand, the home side went into panic mode and ended up losing by one run to go down 2-0 in the three-match series.

"Choke" is a word that has become synonymous with the South African one-day team, who have often floundered on the big stage, especially when chasing a target.

The Proteas players understandably hate the word, and it's true that at times in the past they were unjustly branded as "chokers" when they were simply outplayed on the day.

After all, if you get beaten comprehensively it can hardly be called a choke if you never had a sniff in the first place, right?

Let's start by defining the word "choke" in sports. In my view it can be described as "losing a match or event after being in a position of command".

Earlier this year South Africa lost to England in the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy. The Proteas, batting first, were bowled out for a meagre 175 with the hosts coasting to a seven-wicket victory inside 38 overs at The Oval.

Then coach Gary Kirsten told reporters afterwards his team deserved the tag of "chokers".

"We need to be honest with ourselves. I think we did choke again today. It's a horrible word but we have to front up. We let ourselves down today," Kirsten was quoted as saying at the time.

I disagreed with "Gazza" that day. That was not a choke. We were never in any position to win and were simply outplayed.

But the South Africans cannot shy away from what happened in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday. If you need 35 runs off 39 balls, with seven wickets in hand, it definitely amounts to a CHOKE. And there's no way De Villiers and his team can hide behind that fact.

Even more puzzling was the fact that South Africa batted incredibly well right up to the end, and as colleague and Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing noted, "had actually done everything to win the game earlier".

Chasing 262 in 45 overs in PE will always be tricky, especially against a spin-laden line-up like Pakistan's, so it was doubly disappointing to see the Proteas do all the hard work initially, only to fall short at the final hurdle.

Until the Proteas start winning one-day games by chasing "decent" targets down on a consistent basis, that dreaded old word will never go away...

Herman Mostert works at Sport24 - and fancies himself as a bit of a tennis player and cricket writer...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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