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Sri Lanka's Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Sri Lanka's Tillakaratne Dilshan.

Sometimes 'chokers' are just beaten by a better team

Sri Lanka, who lost their semi-final to India yesterday, have also been accused at times of bottling it in the biggest games. But do they really?

In sporting terms, what constitutes a choke? Gary Kirsten, whose tenure as South Africa's coach, ended with the semi-final defeat against England, insisted that his team had choked on the big stage yet again.

He spoke candidly of the "dark mist" that seems to paralyse South Africa in knockout games.

But did South Africa actually choke, or was it a case of England not even allowing them to play? Can you be accused of choking when the opposition hasn't let a morsel enter your mouth?

Kirsten had a point, in that some of South Africa's batsmen were guilty of terrible shot selection. But England nipped out the openers within the first 10 balls, and there was no respite thereafter.

Sri Lanka, who lost their semi-final to India yesterday, have also been accused at times of bottling it in the biggest games. But do they really? In the 2007 World Cup final, they were at the receiving end of one of the great ODI innings, Adam Gilchrist's 149. They didn't lose. Australia won.

Four years later, they rode on a magnificent Mahela Jayawardene century to post an imposing 274 in the final. They then reduced India to 30 for 2, before Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni summoned up innings for the ages. Again, it wasn't that Sri Lanka choked. It was just that the opposition was better.

In between, at the World Twenty20 final in 2009, a virtuoso display from Shahid Afridi ended their title dreams. If you are a hard marker, you could accuse Sri Lanka of being soft. But there's little you can do when confronted with star turns like that.


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