Another World Cup, another semi-final exit for the Proteas, who lost to New Zealand by four wickets in Auckland on Tuesday.
While it was a hoodoo the South Africans couldn’t break, it was one the Kiwis could, reaching the final in what was their seventh attempt. Russell Domingo’s men will be made to reflect on what could have been as they take the long flight home. Here is how it unfolded over the course of the spectacle for the Proteas, match by match.
MATCH ONE v ZIMBABWE. WON BY 62 RUNS
Rigorous preparations which culminated with a landslide series victory over the West Indies were out the way and it was time to test their mettle on the biggest stage with their Pool B opener against Zimbabwe in Hamilton. The majority of the side picked themselves, but the ominous No 7 spot went to Farhaan Behardien. Zimbabwe choose to field first and it looked a good choice as they had the Proteas reeling on 83-4, but JP Duminy and David Miller proved their side’s depth with the bat with a world record fifth wicket stand. Both notched up centuries as they put on an unbeaten 256 to give their neighbours 340 to chase down. It was a noble effort from the Zimbabweans but they fell 62 runs short to put the Proteas on the board.
MATCH TWO v INDIA. LOST BY 130 RUNS
Then arguably came the first real challenge as they faced the defending champions. AB de Villiers guessed the wrong side of the coin again as India put the willow to use. Shikhar Dhawan found some form in some style as he hit 137, while contributions from Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane took them to 307. The early jitters were then telling as failures continued at the top of the order. Faf Du Plessis displayed some resilience with a 50, but the Indian bowlers stepped up. The Proteas were skittled for 177 – a 130 run defeat.
MATCH THREE v WEST INDIES. WON BY 257 RUNS
After winning as comprehensively as they did against West Indies just a few weeks previously, the Proteas were expected to produce similar results in Sydney, but perhaps not to the extent that they ultimately did. It was already a solid performance from the green and gold, before De Villiers made it a record breaking one. 150 runs were scored in the final 10 overs of their innings as the skipper became the quickest man in ODI’s to reach 50, 100 and 150. They posted 408, the second highest World Cup total at the time. West Indies didn’t come close. Imran Tahir picked up five wickets as he displayed his true worth.
MATCH FOUR v IRELAND. WON BY 201 RUNS
It was becoming increasingly clear that the Proteas were a bat-first side. They displayed that once again against the Irish, who probably deserved more respect after a brilliant start to their campaign. Hashim Amla and Du Plessis smashed centuries as they passed 400 once again – the first side to ever do so back-to-back. Kyle Abbott proved a worthy replacement for the injured Vernon Philander with figures of 4-21, as Ireland were cleaned up for 210. Three wins out of four for the South Africans.
MATCH FIVE v PAKISTAN. LOST BY 29 RUNS (D/L METHOD)
The match against Pakistan was a chance for the Proteas to redeem themselves after the defeat to India and challenge for top spot in the group. They opted to bowl first, and it looked a good choice with regular wickets falling in the middle overs. They restricted Pakistan to 222. The chase proved tough going however, as the spotlight continued to shine brighter with each innings on Quinton de Kock, who failed with the bat once again. Their reliance on De Villiers was exposed with wickets falling around him. His 58-ball 77 was a heroic one but it was in vain, falling 29 runs short of the mark.
MATCH SIX v UAE. WON BY 146 RUNS
Despite defeat to Pakistan, a victory over UAE would hand them second place due to their superior net run rate. Bowling would have suited them first as they hoped to brush off any concerns about their chasing capabilities, but UAE sent them into bat. De Villiers was the star once more as he amassed 99, and they would settle for 341. The side from the Middle-East displayed plenty of character throughout the tournament, and they almost lasted the full 50 overs against a frustrated Proteas side, but in the end they were bowled out for 195 inside 48 overs. Bring on the quarter-finals.
QUARTER-FINAL v SRI LANKA. WON BY NINE WICKETS
The Proteas went into their match against Sri Lanka with a fascinating stat hanging over them that many only started to come to terms with on the day: they had never won a World Cup knockout match. If this wasn’t daunting enough, then the moment when Angelo Mathews won the toss and chose to bat first was. De Villiers refused to get beaten psychologically, but he only had the public convinced when his side had the Sri Lankans at 4-2, and the rest was history as South Africa produced a bowling masterclass. Steyn and Abbott were devastating up front, and it was their hard work that allowed the spinners to take over. Tahir was in the wickets again and became the leading spinner in the tournament, while Duminy notched up a hat-trick, a feat that teammates, fans and commentators alike were oblivious to until he burst away with delight. He became the second South African to take a hat-trick after Charl Langeveldt. They were left with 133 to chase, and while it was impossible not to be a little bit nervous, De Kock made sure there was nothing to worry about with an unbeaten 78, as the side strolled to a nine wicket victory in what was a near perfect performance.
SEMI-FINAL v NEW ZEALAND. LOST BY FOUR WICKETS (D/L METHOD)
In nine attempts between them previously, the Proteas and New Zealand had tripped at the semi-final hurdle. They were out to make history in Auckland and reach the final for the first time. The Black Caps went into it unbeaten in the tournament, but the South Africans were full of momentum themselves after their crushing victory over Sri Lanka. Philander came into the side at the expense of the unfortunate Abbott. De Villiers finally won a toss and chose to bat. Du Plessis was in gritty form and De Villiers had just started to unleash before the heavens opened, which will go down as the moment the Proteas will live to rue. A potentially mammoth total was eventually restricted to 298, meaning the hosts would have to equal their record total over the Proteas, and in 43 overs. Then came the dangling of the carrot which left the public on the edge of their seats for the majority of the New Zealand innings. You could argue that dropped catches and missed run-out chances proved the Proteas eventual downfall, but the steely nerves of Johannesburg-born Grant Elliot was the Black Caps’ retort to that, as his six off the penultimate ball sealed a teary eyed Morkel and Co’s fate.