Dale Steyn seemed to have been waiting for Faf du Plessis to take that catch his whole life. When Tillakaratne Dilshan edged and du Plessis moved forward, Steyn seemed to be blue in the face holding his breath. Then du Plessis caught it and Steyn let it all out. He screamed, veins popping, eyes rolling, arms outstretched. Crazed, possessed, and pumped up - that's how South Africa started the journey into the semis, and their intensity did not wane all through the game.
Sri Lanka are no strangers to taking weird selectorial punts at big World Cup matches, as the team sheet from the 2011 final can testify. This time they chose to break up the flourishing Dilshan-Thirimanne opening partnership by bringing in flamboyant strokeplayer Kusal Perera to face the vaunted South African pace attack, on the back of one fifty and an average of 17 in his previous 18 ODIs (and four ducks in his previous nine).
And he produced a masterclass: how not to open an innings in a World Cup quarter-final. First over, Dale Steyn the bowler. Perera dutifully played himself in. For two balls - a leave, and a drive to cover. Then, he cut loose. Ball three: a flamboyant swish; bat and ball emerge unscathed. Ball four: see ball three, but resulting in an edge over the slips for two. Ball five: a slightly more controlled drive, no contact. Ball six: see ball five, but resulting in an edge through the slips, and a single. Second over, Kyle Abbott the bowler. Ball seven: Perera unveils a new shot from his repertoire - the forward defensive. Perera accessorises the block with a scamper a few yards down the wicket for an obviously non-existent single, and a scamper back to safety. Ball eight: see ball three. Ball nine: see ball eight. He could have been out six times in seven balls. Seven, if you include the run out that would have transpired had he carried through with the scamper. Ball ten: forward defensive, edge, out. Entire SCG reportedly "unsurprised".
The send off Rubel Hossain gave Virat Kohli involved neither gestures nor words. He had just dismissed India's biggest batting star, luring him into a drive from wide outside off stump, and his celebration involved a sound that arose from the bottom of the bowler's stomach and carried all the way to everyone watching, at the MCG and on millions of TV sets around the world. It carried with it history - Rubel and Kohli have been going at each other since their Under-19 days - and a declaration: the game was on and Bangladesh would compete on even terms. It took all of Mushfiqur Rahim's calmness and determination to physically restrain Rubel, 5ft 10 and as strong as a tree, from charging into Kohli's face. India did go on to quell the rebellion from their neighbours, but Rubel's rebel yell at India's heir apparent will always echo through the ages.
Rahat Ali had already completed a catch in the least assuring manner. Cantering in from third man, he intercepted the uppercut from David Warner's bat in front of his moving right knee - almost like he was bending down to pull up his trouser leg and suddenly found a ball lodged in his palms. Pakistan were elated at that. Their World Cup hopes remained alive. But the next time a high ball came to Rahat, the universe he existed in had changed.
In between those two chances, Wahab Riaz had summoned a transcendental spell. He had bounced out Michael Clarke, and given Shane Watson the one-day working-over of a lifetime. The next high ball that came to Rahat was brimful of meaning. If there was any bowler who deserved a wicket at this World Cup, it was Wahab, in that moment. If there was any time his team needed a fielder to be safe, it was now. It wasn't just six ounces of leather hanging in the air, it was the delicious possibility of a Pakistan surge. But Rahat got his hands to the ball and spilt it. So often missed chances fade over time in the memory. But for as long as Wahab's spell is spoken of, or remembered, or written about, so will Rahat's drop. Rahat will know that most of all.
There was one pivotal moment in the quarter-final in Melbourne and anyone with basic needlework skills would have been able to almost capture it: put a green-chequered cloth in between the embroidery hoops and you have the MCG; stitch out a batsman in blue, half-crouched as he smites a high full-toss; a fielder, in green and red, waiting in the outfield, his team-mates, expectant; and an umpire with a red shirt with one arm raised, signalling a no-ball. But it would have taken talent and a whole lot of passion to represent in thread the disappointment of the green team, the drooping of shoulders, the change in the mood, and the end of fight. You'll find many artists who can do that, but it won't be a surprise if most of them are from Dhaka.
In a team full of players on the cutting edge of the next stage of fielding evolution, Daniel Vettori is perhaps New Zealand's weakest link. And that link showed just how strong that chain is with an age-defying snatch on the boundary in the quarter-final against West Indies.
Marlon Samuels slashed Trent Boult, and as the ball sailed towards third man it seemed certain to clear Vettori, who was back-pedalling and found himself a few yards inside the boundary as the catch descended over his head. He sprung up like a jack in the box, one arm raised above for the interception and his other three limbs thrust out at awkward angles. The catch stuck and Vettori landed only a little less gracefully than a gymnast. He indulged in a little swagger to celebrate as Blackcaps from far and wide on the field sprinted towards their old third man, with looks of amazement on their faces. "I couldn't believe it," Boult said after the game. "For him to leap up a couple metres in the air and stick out his paw. I actually enjoyed the celebration afterwards, it was just a little strut. It was very cool."
Given Chris Gayle's fitness it's hardly surprising that rumours have been rife that this World Cup could be the last time he plays for West Indies. And, after the loss to New Zealand, he certainly looked like he was ready to bid the game adieu. He pulled out his two pairs of batting gloves, throwing them into the crowd, one by one, to the sheer glee of the fans. Three of the gloves reached New Zealand fans. Realising that, he looked for the West Indies supporters higher up the stand. With a lazy smile, he wound up and zipped that final glove right amongst them. That catch was worth more than a million to those fans. But there were still people without any souvenirs. And the big man realised that. He pulled out his pads and frisbeed them into the stands. Next came his cap. A kid in the front of the stands got that cap, complete with signature. Later, he laid the rumours of retirement to rest; more opportunities in future to gather Gayle memorabilia then.
Obvious point first: this World Cup is all about the current players. This moment should probably be about Martin Guptill. It is wonderful, though, occasionally to dip back into cricket's storied history. The here and now is important, but we should never forget what has gone before. Watching West Indies get dispatched for 393 in the quarter-final would send a shudder down the former greats of that region. One of them, Curtly Ambrose, has taken on the herculean task of trying to help lift them back up the ladder of world cricket. But, for half an hour at the Basin Reserve, he dipped into tales of the past: of bowling into the wind in Wellington, of being hit for six, of being angered by Dean Jones. He smiled through it all - a couple of days later he must have grimaced at the current generation. Certainly in the West Indies, they don't make them like they used. But thank goodness Ambrose is involved. If only there was time for more stories.