That will almost certainly be South Africa’s fate once again in 2019 after going down to New Zealand by 4 wickets with 3 balls to spare at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
It was a must-win game for the Proteas, who returned to the venue of their 1999 World Cup semi-final heartache against Australia only to be downed on the biggest stage once more.
The Proteas were simply not good enough on the day, and after setting New Zealand 242 for victory in a shortened, 49-over clash, they started brightly in the field but had fallen to pieces by the end.
After six games, the Proteas have won one and lost four with one no-result. It leaves them stranded on 3 log points, and the most they can get to now is 9 .
It will take a miracle for that to be enough. It won’t be.
After reducing New Zealand to 80/4, the Proteas would have fancied their chances.
But South Africa and World Cups simply don’t click, and Faf du Plessis and his men missed several opportunities in the field.
Kane Williamson (106* off 138) and Colin de Grandhomme (60 off 47), through big performances and more than their fair share of luck, ultimately got New Zealand over the line.
Perhaps the biggest talking point came when replays revealed that Williamson (76* at the time) had bottom-edged Imran Tahir’s (0/33 in 10) final delivery, but the Proteas opted against sending the decision upstairs with wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock having not heard anything despite taking the catch.
De Grandhomme, meanwhile, was dropped by a diving David Miller off Tahir when he was on 22*, while the breaking point for South Africa came when they missed a golden opportunity to have Williamson run out after a mix-up with De Grandhomme.
Kagiso Rabada had gathered off his own bowling, but his wayward throw to the bowler’s end could not be gathered by Miller and Williamson, somehow, escaped.
Andile Phehlukwayo, who had struggled with the ball all day, was asked to defend 8 runs in the final over. He couldn’t. Williamson, on the day, was a cut above the rest.
It was all too familiar for the Proteas, who continue to find ways to implode at World Cups.
They probably didn’t post enough runs in this fixture, but that doesn’t account for the moments in the field that cost them dearly.
South Africa knew at the turn of innings that they would have to produce something special with the ball to win.
They got off to the perfect start when Rabada had Colin Munro caught and bowled for 9 to reduce the Kiwis to 12/1.
Chris Morris (3/49 in 10) was the man who gave South Africa their chance when he dismissed Ross Taylor (1), Tom Latham (1) and Jimmy Neesham (23).
The match was laced in tension and drama from start to finish.
A sizeable and knowledgeable contingent of South African support filled the stands of Edgbaston and they knew exactly what was at stake. As a result, every ball had something riding on it.
The start of the match was delayed by 90 minutes because of a wet outfield and reduced to 49 overs per side as a result, and when New Zealand eventually won the toss they asked the Proteas to bat first.
The South African top order, not for the first time in the tournament, got starts without anyone taking the game away.
Rassie van der Dussen’s 67* off 64 was the Proteas’ best effort, but there were also contributions from Hashim Amla (55 off 83), Aiden Markram (38 off 55), David Miller (36 off 37) and skipper faf du Plessis (23 off 35).
Opener Quinton de Kock (5 off 8) was the only member of the Proteas top six to not get in, but even so the innings never had any real momentum.
A combination of disciplined lines and lengths from the New Zealand bowlers on a wicket that was perhaps slower than it initially looked and an overly-cautious South African approach meant that runs, and boundaries in particular, were hard to come by.
Lockie Ferguson (3/59 in 10) was the chief destroyer for the Black Caps, who would have been pleased with restricting South Africa to just 241/6 from their allotted 49 overs.
"Charms strike the sight but merit wins the soul." ~ Alexander Pope