Decoding Protea’s Jinx: Why Can’t South Africa Win the Cricket World Cup?

Some say history repeats itself! But it’s not possible in cricket because sports, in itself, is unpredictable. You may never know what’s in store for you!

If Virat Kohli could break the legend Sachin Tendulkar’s 25-year-old, once-an-impossible-to-break ‘most’ ODI ton record, while the once all-powerful West Indies team remain a non-factor now—anything can happen in Cricket.

Unfortunately, things don’t look to change in the case of South Africa. 

Yet, again! One more time… History repeated itself at ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, and whoosh! The Proteas are out of the tournament as Australia made their much-hyped entry into the 2023 Cricket World Cup’s grand finale to clash against their newly-found sworn enemy: India.

Now, every time India and Australia are set to clash in any ICC tournament, you can always expect a crackling contest between these two goliaths of modern-day cricket.

Their enmity started in the 2003 Cricket World Final and continues till date. However, I leave that discussion for another day.

Let’s come back to the present context—South Africa’s World Cup Woes!

The Consistent Performer

If you set aside the 2023 Cricket World Cup debacle of the Bavuma-led team in the hands of Australia at the Semis, Proteas have performed brilliantly throughout the year, including the ICC Cricket World Cup. They played 22 ODI matches this year, winning 15 of them with a staggering victory rate of 68.18%.

Even at the World Cup, too, South Africa are at the top with 7 wins from 9 matches, with only India ahead of them. On paper and even on the field as well, South Africa are absolutely brilliant. 

Ask any cricket fan, and they would agree that Proteas play fabulous cricket throughout the year. However, their records at the ICC Tournament’s knock-out stages suggest otherwise. 

The South Africa’s World Cup Jinx: 1992 to 2023

ICC Cricket World Cup 1992: Semi-Finals

ICC Cricket World Cup 1996: Quarter Finals

ICC Cricket World Cup 1999: Semi-Finals

ICC Cricket World Cup 2003: Round 1

ICC Cricket World Cup 2007: Semi-Finals

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011: Quarter Finals

ICC Cricket World Cup 2015: Semi-Finals

ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: Round 1 (7th position)

ICC Cricket World Cup 2023: Semi-Finals

Brief History & Details: South Africa’s Nemesis in Cricket World Cup (1992–2023)

Benson & Hedges World Cup 1992 (New Zealand & Australia)

The debutant South Africa had an amazing tournament at the Benson & Hedges World Cup 1992 in which they won 5 matches out of 8. However, they lost the semifinal against England and conceded a 19-run defeat to the Graham Gooch-led English squad.

Batting first, England scored 252. In reply, South Africa reached 232/6 when suddenly the rain stopped the play. At that time, Proteas still needed 22 runs off 12 balls to win the match. But when the match resumed, South Africa was given an impossible target of 22 runs off one ball only under the D/L method! 

Thus, England won the match, and South Africa had to swallow a defeat in the most bizarre style in their very first World Cup.

Wills World Cup 1996 (India, Pakistan, South Africa & Bangladesh)

In the 1996 Cricket World Cup, Proteas cruised into the quarter-final but lost the match against West Indies by just 19 runs. 

Batting first, West Indies put a defiant 265 on the board, but South Africa were bundled out for just 245. It’s important to mention that South Africa were unbeatable at the tournament to only get knocked out by West Indies in the quarter-final.

ICC Cricket World Cup 1999 (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland & Netherlands)

This tournament saw the mother of all semi-finals when South Africa and Australia clashed against each other in Birmingham, England. Batting first, Australia scored a modest total of 213 on the board, courtesy of Pollock’s 5 for 36 and Donald’s 4 for 32.

From outside, it looked an ordinary target but soon South Africa had to bear the brunt as the late legendary Warne wreaked havoc on the field, claiming 4 for 29 in his 10-over spell. 

Thanks to some stiff resistance from the famed Protean all-rounder Lance Klusener that made the match a truly nail-biting one in its real sense. He scored 31 off just 16 balls and almost chased down the target but an attempted cheeky single on the fourth ball saw South Africa getting all out for 213. 

However, the Aussies moved into the final as they had a better run rate at the Super Six stage. Thus, Klusener’s heroics went in vain but still, he was adjudged the player of the tournament.

2003 ICC Cricket World Cup (South Africa, Zimbabwe, & Kenya) 

This time South Africa had the opportunity to win the elusive trophy at home, but they again missed the chance. During the league round, South Africa were given a target of 269 to win the match, but rain halted the match. 

Then the revised target was 230 under Duckworth Lewis rules but South Africa could manage only 229 due to some confusion. A single was much-needed in the last ball, but Mark Boucher played a dot ball and Protea’s campaign got over—then and there.

ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 (West Indies)

In the 2007 cricket World Cup, South Africa met Australia in the 2nd semi-final, scoring just 149 on the board. The Aussies easily chased down the target and the latter also went on to win their third consecutive World Cup trophies.

2011 ICC Cricket World Cup (India, Bangladesh, & Sri Lanka)

South Africa faced New Zealand in the 2011 quarter-final. They just needed 222 to win the match but could score 172 only! The Kiwi all-rounder Jacob Oram’s 4 for 39 and McCullum’s 3 for 24 completely shattered Protea’s dream, while securing a ticket to the semifinal to play against Sri Lanka.

ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 (Australia & New Zealand)

After almost 23 years since the Benson and Hedges tournament, Australia and New Zealand co-hosted the tournament. South Africa had a dream run at the tournament, winning four out of their 6 group matches, and then they also comfortably beat Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals. 

But New Zealand once crushed their dream while successfully chasing down a mammoth 298 in just 43 overs!

2019 Cricket World Cup (England and Wales)

The 2019 Cricket World Cup was hosted by England and Wales. But nothing much is to talk about South Africa’s performance in the tournament. They performed miserably, managing just 3 wins from 9 matches and were knocked out of the tournament at the group stage. 

No doubt, the 2019 World Cup was the worst one for South Africa as far as their World Cup performance is concerned.

ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 (India) 

Just like all previous editions of the World Cup, South Africa gave everything to the tournament, this year as well. But they just couldn’t make it to the final, disappointing millions of fans worldwide.

There can be many reasons behind South Africa’s low score against Australia, but primarily, it seemed they were under immense pressure to perform on the big day. Despite David Miller’s heroic knock of 101, it was not enough to tame the Aussies. Notwithstanding Klassen’s support, which helped Proteas pile up 212 on the board.

Despite putting a modest total on the scoreboard, Protea’s disciplined bowling saw Australia’s rock-solid batting line-up collapsing like a pack of cards. Both Markram and Maharaj took the match to an interesting point before Cummins and Starc hit the winning runs to take the Aussies into the final… record eight times. In this match, the Aussie captain Pat Cummins and Starc forged a winning partnership of 22 runs for the eighth wicket, and the rest is history.

In Conclusion

Thus, in the case of South Africa, history continues to repeat itself. At crucial matches, they simply fail to perform. No one knows when South Africa will break the jinx and get hold of the coveted ICC tournament.

They performed brilliantly throughout the tournament, scoring one big total after another. South African batters hit eight centuries at the tournament, the most by any team in this World Cup. Also, Protea’s top-order batsman De Cock scored fluently throughout the tournament, smashing four centuries and having 594 runs to his credit.

In the end… we can say despite performing outstandingly well and reaching so near, Proteas once again remained very far from kissing the coveted trophy!


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