ICC World Cup 2019: When it rains on Proteas, it pours
If South Africa have all to complain about 1992, they have themselves to blame in 1999 and 2003,Updated: Jun 15, 2019 10:16 IST
From needing 22 runs off one ball to getting their numbers wrong once, South Africa are a walking, talking example of how rain can ruin the best laid plans in a World Cup. That their only point in the latest edition has come because of rain will be small consolation for the misfiring Proteas.
And even then it wasn’t as if South Africa were poised for a win like they were in the semi-final against England in 1992 when the scoreboard flashed impossibility. True, the game against the West Indies was all of 7.3 overs when play was abandoned in Hampshire but at 29/2 and Sheldon Cottrell having already done his march-and-salute routine twice, it wasn’t smooth sailing for South Africa.
The contest against the Caribbeans carried a lot of significance for Faf du Plessis’s men who had gone down against England, Bangladesh and India with a whimper. West Indies were an opposition somewhat equal in skills and they too had misfired. But not for the first time this English summer, rain checkmated cricket.
South Africa and rain have some history. It began when they returned from 20-year international isolation, in 1992, and there seems to be no let-up. In 1992, they made the semi-finals defeating hosts Australia, West Indies, Pakistan and India. Peter Kirsten (410 runs at 68.33 in eight matches) and Allan Donald (13 wickets in nine matches) were the star performers and there was Jonty Rhodes: agile, nimble and adding a different dimension to fielding.
Things were hunky-dory in the semi-final against England till the rain arrived. Before that 12-minute shower, South Africa needed 22 off 13 balls in Sydney. The electronic scoreboard first showed 22 was needed off seven when play resumed. Difficult but not impossible. It turned out to be an error. South Africa, by some complex equation, actually needed 22 off one ball. To call it a farce would be understating the obvious.
If South Africa have all to complain about 1992, they have themselves to blame in 1999 and 2003. In 1996, they ran into a West Indies team still packing a punch in quarter-finals. In 1999, they snared a tie from the jaws of victory and let Australia slip into the final because they had finished higher in Super Six standings.
South Africa have always shown up at a world event with a squads brimming with talent. In 2003, the hosts had Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock, Herschelle Gibbs, Lance Klusener apart from Donald and Rhodes. In the final league match against Sri Lanka, South Africa needed a win to progress.
Sri Lanka did well to set a 269-run target. South Africa were bolstered by Gibbs’ 73 before Mark Boucher and Pollock added 63. Then it began to rain and before the players were called off, Pollock was run-out.
By the end of the 44th over, Boucher, in Klusener’s company, was conveyed by the dressing room that a total of 229 after 45 overs was enough. With rain getting heavier and Sri Lankans finding it tough to grip the ball, Boucher hit a six to take his side to 229 and then defended the final ball before breaking into celebrations.
However, it turned out that 229 was needed for a tie as per the Duckworth-Lewis method, and one more run — which Boucher had not gone for — was needed for a win. The hosts crashed out of the World Cup embarrassingly, having miscalculated their target.
Through every World Cup, South Africa have struggled to shed the chokers’ tag but this would be the worst start for the four-time semi-finalists. News of AB de Villiers’ scuppered comeback has been a distraction and if injuries to Lungi Ngidi and Dale Steyn makes Kagiso Rabada feel like he is walking alone you can hardly blame him. The last thing South Africa need now is raindrops falling on their heads.