There was even less cricket played in Barbados on Sunday during AB de Villiers' 200th ODI appearance for South Africa than there was in Bangalore seven months ago, where de Villiers played his 100th Test and four of the five days were lost to rain. But the South Africa captain did not let that dampen his spirits.
"I'm not too fussed about that kind of thing, the fact that it rained off. I take it one game at a time," de Villiers said. "It's a nice milestone and a way to look back over my career, how lucky I've been to have played so many games and to have been around for so long. It is a great privilege and an honour to represent this country and to have played for that long."
Instead of looking back, de Villiers is choosing to look forward, to the rest of this triangular series. If Australia lose to West Indies on Tuesday, South Africa will be guaranteed a spot in Sunday's showdown. If Australia win, then South Africa will need to beat West Indies on Friday; a loss will not be enough get them through, even if they finish ahead of West Indies on net run rate, because the tournament's regulations stipulate that number of wins is the first criterion to separate teams tied on points.*
Either way South Africa go into their last game with a good chance of making the final, something that seemed unlikely when they were outplayed in their opening match and then found themselves in a must-win situation against West Indies in their fourth match. To watch his team step up in those kinds of pressure situations has given de Villiers great satisfaction.
"The close games we've won as a team mean more than personal milestones. Those are the kind of things I'll look back to and think I'm a really fortunate man," de Villiers said. "We've played quite a few really close series in the past, like this one, where we've had a few must-win games. We enjoy those kind of situations. We like to bring the fight when it matters most. It's a great opportunity for us to prove that we are that kind of team under pressure."
In South Africa's previous ODI series, they came back from 2-0 down against England at home to beat them 3-2. Given South Africa's reputation for buckling under pressure, the improvements they have made bode well for their next major tournament, next year's Champions Trophy. As a side that plans early, they will already be thinking of how they will look to balance their XI at that event and this series could provide some early clues.
South Africa have gone into the matches in the Caribbean with a shortened batting line-up of only six specialist batsmen, two allrounders and, for every match except the rain-out, two specialist spinners. The composition of their attack has meant that Morne Morkel was forced to sit on the sidelines until they reached Barbados, a pitch expected to provide something to the seamers. South Africa's new approach is more horses for courses than it has ever been, helped by the personnel they have at their disposal. De Villiers indicated that will continue when explaining how they chose the team for Sunday's game.
"I'm always a believer in having that spinner in your pocket; it's a great way to change the pace of the game. But the stats tell you the seamers have been doing the damage here and it looked like that kind of wicket," de Villiers said. "Imran Tahir could bowl on glass at the moment, he's in great form. So I was never going to leave him out of the side. We also have four world-class seam bowlers to do the business. I thought both teams had decent balance."
South Africa will have to wait out the week to see how Tahir performs at Kensington Oval, which gives them five days to enjoy island life with their families. At the same time, de Villiers will make sure they are focused enough for what could be a must-win on Friday.
"It's all about reading the situation and reading where your team's at. There are certain mornings when I see the guys strolling around a bit, and they need a bit of a kick to get going. On other mornings, I feel the energy's in a really good place so I just let it go and keep it low key," he said. "It changes from day to day, and I'll try and assess that again at training and when we arrive here that morning for that big, must-win game."
*11.00am GMT, June 20: The article had erroneously stated that South Africa could go through to the final ahead of West Indies on net run rate. This has been changed.