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Cricket: Proteas clinch semi-final qualification, now what?

By Antoinette Muller 18 June 2013

Picture this: A match tied on Duckworth-Lewis sees South Africa progress to the next round of an ICC knockout competition on net run rate. If you’d uttered those words a few weeks back, many cricket fans would have scoffed at the thought, but it was reality for the Proteas on Friday against the Windies. So now what? BY ANTOINETTE MULLER.

If one believes in fate, one might say that on Friday, the South Africa national cricket team met it, conquered it and convinced it to still be friends. That’s the only way to describe the bizarre result scenario which unfolded – and which has seen them head into the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy.

When rain and Duckworth-Lewis conspired to see the Proteas progress thanks to a tied match and a superior net run rate, the joke went that they had all conquered all their old foes in one fell swoop.

Right until Kieron Pollard flung his bat at a back-of-a-length delivery which he ended up top edging down to third man, West Indies were destined for victory. The rain had been coming down, persistently but not heavily, for about half an hour, and when Pollard got out, scores were par on Duckworth-Lewis and the match was tied. It was a stunning result and a gripping end to the match.

With South Africa having posted a meagre 230-6 in their 31 overs when they looked on course for 260-plus at one stage, the chase was always going to be interesting. Colin Ingram fired at the top of the order and everybody else chipped in with pockets of runs here and there, while David Miller finally showed his ability as one of the best finishers in the game.

Their performance on the day wasn’t the best, and while the batsmen did their best to put up a good score, the bowlers were found lacking. Once Chris Gayle had been dismissed, many had thought that was it, that tickets could be booked back to London and that headlines containing that c-word would reappear. But that was naïve, as the truncated match – reduced to 31 overs a side after a heavy rain delay – was perfectly suited for the hit and giggle experts lower down the order.

Hiding in the batting order – and glossed over by many a preview writer – was Marlon Samuels. It was he who clobbered 78 off 56 to propel the West Indies to a competitive total in the World T20 final last year. He, along with Pollard, is the kind of player whose precision could pull a marshmallow through the eye of a needle. As Samuels and Pollard continued their assault with a range of shots to all corners of the park, the rain started to fall, but it wasn’t until the West Indian KP got out that the rain became heavy fast and the umpires ushered the players off the field.

Did Pollard know that West Indies were on par with the score? Dwayne Bravo seemed pretty convinced afterwards, but the scoreboard would have been showing 193 – the Duckworth-Lewis par at the end of the McLaren over which had just begun. In the heat of the moment, perhaps, Pollard thought it fit to go for that total instead, before the rain got too much. If he were in possession of a D/L sheet, he’d have known that a wicket at that stage would have pegged the Windies back, but it was not to be.

Whatever Pollard was thinking didn’t matter – not to the South Africans ,anyway. Nothing really mattered to them aside from the fact that they had somehow managed to make the semi-final.

One may well ask: what now? AB de Villiers was quite happy to tell everyone that South Africa had won two knockout games in a row. Of course, they weren’t really knockouts by name, just by nature. Any blip now and it’s back to the same old, same old – no matter what new and innovative ways they might come up with to lose this time.

On the face of it, South Africa has exorcised many a cricket ghost in the last two weeks. Triumphing despite dodgy run-outs? Check. Winning a must-win game at Edgbaston? Check. Being on the good side of Duckworth-Lewis? Check. Having a tied result be in your favour? Check.

Add to that that despite being without some of their big name players, they have managed to perform reasonably well, and you’ll conclude that it’s not been a bad run for the men in green and gold.

Result summary:

South Africa 230/6 (31 overs)

Colin Ingram 73 (63), David Miller 38 (29); Dwayne Bravo 5-0-43-2, Ravi Rampaul 6-0-37-1

West Indies 190/6 (26.1/26.1 ov, target: 191)

Marlon Samuels 48 (38), Chris Gayle 36 (27); Dale Steyn 6-0-33-2, Robin Peterson 4-0-22-1

Match tied (D/L method) DM

Photo: South Africa’s David Miller attempts to hit the ball during their ICC Champions Trophy group B match against the West Indies at Cardiff Wales Stadium, Wales June 14, 2013. REUTERS/Philip Brown

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