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

De Villiers relief as SA finally edge one

The South African fielders rushed off the Cardiff outfield as soon as the umpires made it clear they wanted the covers on. Dwayne Bravo and Darren Sammy did not want to leave but were forced to.

In the few minutes between the playing and officiating personnel walking off, the groundstaff walking on and the announcement that the match was over, there was only rain. And silence. And maybe some confusion.

Not everyone knew that if play was interrupted after the scheduled close, the match could not resume. By the time they found out, South Africa were nowhere to be seen. Imagine the scenes if we could have spotted them.

Would they have been jumping around, high-fiving each other with delirium? Would Dale Steyn, who took the catch that dismissed Pollard, give one his trademark, angry-man, fist-pumping celebrations? Would they have been whooping and dancing? Or would there have been quiet recognition?

AB de Villiers' press conference demeanour suggested the last of those. South Africa did not seem to celebrate their qualification to the semi-finals as though it was a victory. Just as well, because it was not. Their tied game against West Indies could have been a defeat had one ball gone differently and they knew that.

For them, it was just relief and finally, a sprinkling of luck. "It feels great. We've been on the wrong side of these kinds of matches in the past quite a few times and I have been part of a few teams that's been on the wrong side," de Villiers said. "What makes me more happy is that I thought we played really good cricket most of the game today."

South Africa did not always bowl particularly well but conditions were tricky. Apart from the calibre of batsmen they were facing and the danger in missing a length by a fraction, the wet weather added a different challenge.

"It had been raining the whole time, for the half an hour prior to when the umpires called it off, and that made it difficult to know when the umpires were going to call it," de Villiers said. "It made it difficult because it was getting heavier, the ball got really wet and it became really difficult for me to communicate with the bowlers out there, it was windy and I thought it got quite dangerous and slippery."

De Villiers showed much improved leadership in the way he managed his bowlers, particularly Steyn, who lived up to his reputation as leader of the attack. "He is definitely an X-factor for us. I called on him a few times today, especially the last spell into the wind and he picked up a wicket," he said. "He handled the pressure well and the way he gave his best for the team was very inspiring."

Perhaps even more inspiring for South Africa's long-suffering fans who have watched them stumble in major tournaments in incidents as exactly the same as today's will be that the team prevailed this time. The intent of their batting stood out for de Villiers. "I don't think our batting can get much better than it is now," he said.

While they do not have any century-makers they have had contributions from everyone. "We know there is a lot of strength in our batting line-up and I am looking forward to seeing that come through in the next knockout games," de Villiers added.

Those matches are the important ones for South Africa, who have not won an ICC trophy for 15 years. Although he was not too boisterous in saying it, he believes the tide has turned and this was the start of it.

"We are not the kind of team to hide from the fact that we lost important games in the past. But we didn't do that today and we didn't do that in the last game either so the last two knockout games in a row, if we win the semi-finals, need I say more," he asked, cheekily, before laying down a gauntlet.

"We believe we can win and we have really felt the support from back home. There's no doubt in my mind, we will go out there and give it our best shot, play to our full potential and it's going to be up to a few other teams out there to they and stop us."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • mahjut on June 15, 2013, 7:54 GMT

    No Firdose... It was effectively a win and why should they not have celebrated it. SA didn't lose a significant match in 1999 and have been suffering the consequences of those "lost" draws at the hands of misguided journos and punters ever since. Did Oz move on from the 99 draw with quiet reflection. No! They labelled SA chokers (at a time where Waugh's word meant a lot to a salivating press core)...and turned their noses up at Klusener getting "player of the tournament". I like the WI a lot but this should be celebrated because that's two big 'must-win' games in a row against fancied tourney winners and that is positive but also it must be fully celebrated because this is probably the end of the road in this tourney and despite these two wins SA will leave this tourney chokers to all thosse who came to the tourney thinking they are!!!

  • VENKATACHALAM on June 15, 2013, 6:12 GMT

    At last some luck going the S Africans way. I don't think S Africa batted to potential, especially Amla who threw away a good start, not for the first time in this tournament. It is critical for Amla(he is batting too aggressively too early)to bat through the innings and others to bat around him. The score they made today was just about par against an opposition with such power hitters and a short straight boundary. They were lucky to squeak through in the end. Perhaps the stars are aligned the right way this time !

  • Vineet on June 15, 2013, 6:02 GMT

    Like most neutrals, I like the West Indies side, but I was glad to see SA go through. For once, luck favored them in a game decided by D/L. Good luck to them in semi finals!

  • Vachel on June 15, 2013, 4:25 GMT

    Good thing for the rain, you guys got in the semi final.

  • Dummy4 on June 15, 2013, 4:00 GMT

    Its was a long wait to see us get on the right side of rain / duckworthless. Thats a start. But we wont have got rid of the choker tag until we win a trophy. I remain hopeful but somewhat cynical

  • keve on June 15, 2013, 3:54 GMT

    Ya i dont think India wants to give SA the WC 2015 so they will give the mini world cup 2013. lols . I dont know how it turns out to be. We need more nations , more quality cricket playing nations to make cricket interesting... ICC can easily help ireland and afghanistan.... if it so then it would be the best 8 nations , bangladesh , zimbabwe , ireland and afghanistan all considered as good as the top 8. Why can ICC make these countries come on top

  • Dummy4 on June 15, 2013, 2:22 GMT

    I think SA finally removed their Chokers Tag. No they did not removed. It is by Garry. As SA said they wants to give Grand Farewell party to Gary by winning CT everything goes their way. Same thing in WC. India lost to SA tied Eng and Won WC. SA lost to India. Tied WI. May win CT. Again grand farewell to Gary.

  • Dummy4 on June 14, 2013, 21:13 GMT

    "play to our full potential "Everyone knows that if that happens no one can beat these guys.One game at a time and here we are staring at the possibility of another final.But one good day and perhaps two is all they need to be champions here,question is have they already used up all their luck given everyone knows that they always had the capability.the whole squad has chipped in except for maybe Duminy but it is not going to be easy after 6 months with no cricket.Waiting for that last piece of the puzzle.And hope that Ab completes his innings rather than putting it down to others.And a word out to Morne,buddy ur effort was the most important thing that has brought the guys this far!!Thumbs up to u and wish for u to heal sooner.Well we can see that come Wednesday and i hope it will be a Happy day for guys like me.Go Proteas!!

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