London: South Africa cricket coach Gary Kirsten admitted his team deserved the tag of chokers after crashing to a seven-wicket defeat by England in the Champions Trophy semi-final on Wednesday. "We need to be honest with ourselves. I think we did choke again today," Kirsten said after the disappointing one-sided game at the Oval that lifted England into their second Champions Trophy final.
"It's a horrible word but we have to front up. We let ourselves down today." It was the first time a South African coach had publicly accepted what was widely believed in the rest of the cricket world -- that the Proteas faltered in crunch games.
South Africa, top-ranked in Tests and formidable opponents in world cricket, have struggled to get past the semi-final stage in major one-day tournaments since winning the inaugural version of the Champions Trophy in Bangladesh in 1998.
Kirsten, the former South African opener who ends his two-year term as coach with Wednesday's match, said he had expected his team to perform better in the semi-final.
"To be blown away with the bat with the quality of batsmen we have got in our batting line-up is very disappointing. There has definitely been an inconsistency to our cricket. When we play in big tournaments like this, we do get exposed."
Kirsten, who coached India to victory in the 2011 World Cup before moving back to South Africa, said he shared the blame. "We certainly have not improved, and that is where a question mark needs to come over me. So maybe it's a good decision that I'm leaving."
England's Cook, meanwhile, was confident his team can win Sunday's final at Edgbaston, Birmingham, against the winners of Thursday's all-Asian semi-final between India and Sri Lanka in Cardiff.
"We can win it, without a doubt," the England captain said.
"You need people to stand up and deliver to win one-day internationals and it has happened for us in the last two games we have played. This England side in particular has delivered when the chips have been down and the pressure has been at its highest."
Cook, whose team begins the highly-anticipated Ashes series against Australia next month, said it would be a "great achievement" to win the Champions Trophy. "It's hard to compare it with the Ashes, but at the start of the summer we set out some clear goals and one of them was to win the Champions Trophy," he said.
"We got to the final in 2004 and we could not quite get over the line. Hopefully this time we can go one better."