AB de Villiers says South Africa won’t choke against Sri Lanka in Wednesday’s World Cup quarter-final at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
It’s a bold statement by the captain, and it was an answer to the last question of his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
Asked how South Africa would tackle that ‘chokers’ tag, and if De Villiers would lead by example, the captain simply said: ‘I haven’t thought about that very often. All I can say is we’re not going to choke. We’re just going to play a good game of cricket tomorrow and come out on top. Simple.’
It does sound simple, yes, but the reality is often not.
A lot has been made about winning the toss and batting first, but according to De Villiers history at the SCG suggests a more even battle.
‘I’m not sure how important the toss is. The stats are pretty even, chasing or batting first. You saw Sri Lanka chasing really well the other night there. Lots of games have been won by the team batting second here, as well, and by the team batting first.
‘Whatever happens tomorrow, we’ll just try and adjust as quickly as possible, whether we bat or bowl first, and try to find a way to run through them if we bowl first; and if we don’t, try to find a way to post a big total.’
South Africa lost both their pool games where they were asked to chase a total, and memories of those defeats may come back to haunt them should they again be asked to bat second.
‘Yeah, we’ve lost two games. We’re pretty much on the track that we’d like to be. We finished second in the group, and that’s what it comes down to. No one is going to ask us if we played exceptional cricket when we win the World Cup, we’re just going to say that we won the Cup, so we’re just going to find a way to win the game tomorrow,’ said De Villiers.
He has previously identified partnerships and wickets in hand as key factors in a successful chase, while there will be a lot of pressure on Quinton de Kock to give South Africa a good start with opening partner Hashim Amla.
On how they were approaching the game, De Villiers said: ‘It’s important to focus on what we’ve been doing well and try to do that tomorrow. We have certain strengths that we like to focus on, and not focus too much on the opposition.
‘That’s as simple as possible. Strike with a new ball, try and bowl them out, and if we bat first, try and get a big total and put them under pressure.’