Another cloud burst rips South Africa's World Cup hopes - at home, this time
After indifferent starts to their campaigns in Group B, Sri Lanka and South Africa faced a do-or-die clash in steamy Durban. Sri Lanka had flunked against Kenya and South Africa, and, short of quality back-up bowling and apparently hampered by internal discord, were trounced by New Zealand. The key decider also had a little extra spice in the context of the two teams' hot-tempered series before Christmas.
Sri Lanka batted first. Marvan Atapattu (126) cracked a beautiful century. He had support from a lyrical Aravinda de Silva, who was about to retire. South Africa were set a tricky 269-run target. Herschelle Gibbs teed off with some big hitting but Sri Lanka's spinners clawed their way back. The initiative swapped back and forth before Boucher and Shaun Pollock turned the tide with a 63-run stand. But a light drizzle grew steadily heavier by the time Muttiah Muralitharan ran out Pollock.
Lance Klusener's arrival at the crease coincided with a deterioration in the weather. As he patted just one run from his first eight balls it became increasingly clear that the match was going to end early. At the end of the 44th over the South African dressing room sent a message to Boucher that the score needed to be 229 by the end of the 45th, assuming no further wickets fell.
The contest was on a knife edge but Sri Lanka's spinners were struggling to grip the slippery ball. Boucher pounced on the penultimate ball of the over, swinging a six over wide mid-on, and, the score now 229, he punched the air in jubilation and safely defended the last ball of the over. As he'd anticipated, the umpires pulled the players off.
However, Boucher's elation was soon replaced by confusion and then despair: the instructions had been wrong. Two hundred and twenty nine were needed for a tie. South Africa needed a win to go through. As the rain drenched the ground and play was called off, the South Africa dressing room plunged into depression.
After their second successive bizarre World Cup exit, former batsman turned TV commentator Andrew Hudson summed it up: "42 million South Africans are going to bed tonight hoping it was a bad dream". Shaun Pollock, the soon-to-be-sacked captain, tried to be philosophical: "You can look at all the ifs and buts but at the end of the day it doesn't really help much."
What happened next
South Africa, the proud and confident hosts, failed to reach the Super Sixes. Pollock faced the wrath of an indignant public and was made a sacrificial lamb, sacked as captain. Sri Lanka proceeded through the Super Sixes before being blown away by the searing pace of Brett Lee in the semi-final in Port Elizabeth.