South Africa v West Indies, Champions Trophy, Group B, Cardiff June 14, 2013

Pollard wicket hands South Africa semi-final place

South Africa 230 for 6 in 31 overs (Ingram 73, Dwayne Bravo 2-43) tied with West Indies 190 for 6 in 26.1 overs (D/L method)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

It has been a decade since South Africa's miscalculation of Duckworth-Lewis saw them exit the World Cup in the first round. Finally, they will consider themselves redeemed.

In a twist of fate as perfectly formed as the ringlet on a young girl's crop of hair, West Indies were pushed out of the Champions Trophy after a rain-affected tied match. After 26.1 overs, with six wickets down, they needed 191 runs to win the match. They left the field on 190 for 6 as the drizzle drifted down. The result awarded a point to each side and South Africa progressed to the semi-finals by virtue of a greater net run rate.

If ever one ball was wholly decisive on the outcome of a match, the first ball of the 27th over was it. Kieron Pollard was dismissed when he threw his bat at a Ryan McLaren short ball and was caught at third man.

Had Pollard not been out, West Indies would have won the match because they were ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis par for five wickets down. Then it would have been them, not South Africa, who advanced to the semi-finals.

As the second innings developed, it seemed more likely West Indies side would pull off a heist. Despite losing Chris Gayle early and seeing their required run-rate soar to 9.5 per over, Marlon Samuels and Pollard plundered 58 runs off 33 balls to resurrect ghosts of tournaments past for South Africa.

When the requisite 20 overs had been reach to make sure the match would count West Indies were 14 runs behind the Duckworth-Lewis total they would have needed to win. At 130 for 4, Samuels decided it was time to tuck in and he took 15 runs off Robin Peterson's next over to close the gap.

But the fit-again Dale Steyn swung the pendulum back South Africa's way. He sent down four dot balls, including a superb bouncer, before conceding just two singles and the onus was on the batsmen again. Lonwabo Tsotsobe entered the ring next and Pollard took him on. Two blistering boundaries, one mistimed over third man, the other a pull to midwicket, clawed West Indies in again.

The protagonists would not have been misplaced at a Wimbledon doubles match as Samuels set on Steyn again. A pull for four off the first ball of his next over put pressure back on Steyn but he delivered the ace. Full, straight and on-target, he uprooted Samuels' middle-stump.

Enter Dwayne Bravo, whose clip for four kept West Indies exactly on par at the end of the 24th over. Pollard played the shot of the match with a straight drive for four off Tsotsobe in the next over and West Indies inched ahead. They stayed ahead after 26 overs and then Pollard made the mistake he will rue on the flight back home.

West Indies had taken 72 runs off the seven overs before Pollard was dismissed and seemed capable to continuing in that vein. The way West Indies batted will not answer questions of whether South Africa - propped up by Colin Ingram's 73 at the top of the order and the 68-run fifth-wicket stand between Faf du Plessis and David Miller - had managed enough runs in a rain-affected affair.

The performance will, however, put to rest some of their other concerns. Ingram notched up his highest score since taking over the opening role and acquitted himself particularly well against the spin of Sunil Narine. He and Hashim Amla put on the highest first-wicket stand of South Africa's campaign so far.

Their finishers had the opportunity to get into the game and did. Du Plessis and Miller took an average total and turned it into something South Africa would feel comfortable with. Most importantly for them, Steyn made a successful return from his side-strain. He bowled at good pace and found swing to restore confidence in their pace attack they can present later in the competition.

West Indies showed glimpses of the same. Tino Best bowled quickly - his fastest ball was 151.3kph - Ravi Rampaul had a menacing slower ball and Gayle, Samuels and Pollard cleared the boundary at will. They got the most crucial thing wrong.

So often, South Africa have been on that side of the equation. In 1992, they were eliminated from the World Cup because of rain. In 1996, the lost to West Indies. In 1999, they tied a semi-final against Australia and had to leave the World Cup because they had lost to them in the group stage. In 2003, they fell foul of Duckworth-Lewis. And at the 2004 and 2006 Champions Trophies defeats to West Indies put them out.

They may well see this result as a cathartic way to move past all of those and an omen that their major tournament fortunes are changing. But the real knockouts are still to come.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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