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Proteas sink into summer gloom

South Africa, widely expected to be the only team capable of halting the Australia, sunk into a deep summer depression as they tried to piece together their fading World Cup dream.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2003 14:01 IST

South Africa, widely expected to be the only team capable of halting the Australian juggernaut, sunk into a deep summer depression on Monday as they tried to piece together their fading World Cup dream.

On the first rest day of the 2003 tournament, Proteas skipper Shaun Pollock was left facing serious questions over how things had gone so horribly wrong with two defeats in their first three games threatening to send the hosts spiralling out of the tournament in the first round itself.

"It's out of our control," admitted Pollock after New Zealand pulled off a nine-wicket win in fading light at the Wanderers on Sunday in front of 30,000 stunned fans.

"We've got it all to do and we've got to hope results go our way."

South Africa have to win their remaining three matches, against minnows Bangladesh and Canada and then Sri Lanka in what could be a crucial match in Durban on March 3.

But if Sri Lanka beat the West Indies in Cape Town on February 28, the hosts could be eliminated anyway.

"It's not an ideal situation," said Pollock, who admitted his side were outplayed by New Zealand despite having scored a seemingly insurmountable 306 for six.

"We are hoping for a lifeline which is disappointing. We would have preferred to have ben able to determine our own destiny."

New Zealand reached a rain-reduced target of 226 in 39 overs with nine wickets and 13 balls to spare, with Pollock making a career-best unbeaten 134 off 132 balls.

Pollock's men woke on Monday to find the critics sharpening their knives, but he remained defiant in the face of claims that once again the hosts have lost their nerve.

"I suppose there is a lot of extra pressure, but we should be well enough used to it by now. Maybe it has affected us, who knows? But we will have to get used to it if we want to progress."

By contrast Kiwi skipper Stephen Fleming was delighted at his team's fightback, led by his own match-winning century.

"A lot was on the line," he said. "It was a must-win situation and as captain I felt I had to make my mark as a player. It's the World Cup and I haven't had great performances in the World Cup in the past. This was my day."

Reigning champions Australia have no such problems with their future in the event and enjoyed Monday's rest day watching from the top as the rest of the pack prepared for a mad scramble to reach the super six round.

With victories over Asian rivals India and Pakistan in the bag, Ricky Ponting's men are the only ones assured of moving up after 15 matches of the 42-game preliminary league.

Meanwhile, Pakistan quick Shoaib Akhtar played down the record of bowling the fastest delivery in the World Cup by saying he was happier that he had taken four wickets in his team's 171-run win over Namibia in Kimberley.

Shoaib was timed at 98.5mph as he bowled to last man Rudie van Vuuren during his 4-46 in Namibia's demolition for 84.

"I am delighted to have bowled the fastest in the World Cup but I am here to take wickets and put my team on the right track to win the World Cup," said Shoaib.

First Published: Feb 17, 2003 14:01 IST