I never stayed till the end of the India v South Africa game on a steamy night at the MCG.
As the sixth wicket fell and the sea of orange, white and green Indian flags waved triumphantly in the packed arena, and as we (meaning South Africa) began our all familiar world cup capitulation, I got up and left.
India had scored over 300 and we were about 150/6 with 20 overs remaining. It was a hopeless situation, one South African fans are all too familiar with at world cups, particularly at the knock-out stages.
In five world cup knockout games South Africa have played since their debut in 1992, they have lost four and tied one (THAT game against Australia we should have won in 1999 before the greatest choke in the history of sport).
To win world cups is a mixture of skill, luck and nerve: we have plenty of the former and not much of the other two.
But if South Africa do – as expected – make the quarterfinals and then somehow win their way through to the final, this is the surest way to win the competition:
Win the toss
Score at least 250
(If we lose the toss, bowl them out for under 150 or less)
Winning the toss is important, but only if you take advantage of it by choosing to bat.
In the 10 world cups played to date, seven have been won by the team batting first.
This is not all that surprising. Cricket is a game of nerves, of who blinks first.The pressure is so much greater batting second. Recovery is so much harder if you get off to a poor start, and if it’s a day/night game, conditions are usually tougher batting second under the lights.
That’s unless you’ve got only a small total to chase.
In 1996 Sri Lanka chased down 240 odd against Australia and in 1999, Australia only had to score 132 against Pakistan.
The only time a team has chased down a sizeable total and won the world cup was in 2011, when India chased down 274 set by Sri Lanka, winning with 10 balls to spare thanks to an MS Dhoni special.
The cardinal error though is to win the toss and choose to field. Only one team has done that and ended up on the winning side: Sri Lanka against Australia in 1996.
In the first three world cup finals won by West Indies twice and then Australia, on each occasion, the team that won the toss chose to field and lost the game. It happened again in 2003 when India won the toss, chose to field and Australia amassed 359/2.
So my message to AB De Villiers, if we somehow start playing well enough and make it through to the final is simple:
Make sure you win the bloody toss and for heaven’s sake, BAT FIRST (and then post 300 plus!)
I know, I know…
But, we are allowed to dream, aren’t we?