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CARDIFF: For once the boot was on the other foot. South Africa, making unprecedented history, tied with the West Indies in what was a virtual, rain-ravaged quarterfinal of the Champions Trophy, but progressed into the knockouts courtesy of a superior Net Run Rate in the league stage.
It was all rather tragic-comic. And considering their fate in weather-hit, must-win encounters involving the use of math and equations, you'd have been forgiven for disbelieving that the Proteas actually came out on top in a game of twists and turns and vexatious interruptions.
They join India at the business end of the tournament as the top two sides from Group 'B', with an inconsequential yet highly anticipated game between India and Pakistan to be played.
Chasing an impressive 230/6 in 31 overs, the West Indies found themselves in genuine contention: within 41 runs of the target and with four overs to get them. At that stage, the Carribeans were on 190/5, three ahead of the par score and would have happily marched into the last-four had the rain come down exactly then.
As fate would have it, there was still time for another ball before the skies opened up for the millionth time on the evening; and that solitary delivery, bowled by seamer Ryan McLaren and off which Kieron Pollard played a shot of brazen irresponsibility, cost the Windies a place in the semis as the par score was yanked up on account of the extra dismissal.
It was bucketing down by now and after all the drama and disappointment South Africa found themselves home and dry and into the semis, thanks to opener Colin Ingram’s 73 and cameos of varying length and intensity from David Miller, Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers.
Dale Steyn, returning after injury, was outstanding as he gave away just 33 six overs and bowled the rampaging Marlon Samuels at a crucial juncture.
As is often the case, the chase was being made out to be a battle between Chris Gayle and Steyn, who had recovered fully from the side-strain that kept him out of the first two matches. Gayle (36) decided to play the waiting game, shepherding the score to 49 for the loss of Johnson Charles in ten overs, before he shrugged off his languor with a sequence of big shots against JP Duminy’s off-breaks.
Having smashed seamer Chris Morris for four, the hulking opener chopped the bowler straight to point for an easy catch by du Plessis. Dwayne Smith was sent off via a brilliant review of a turned down leg-before appeal that led to reversal of the original decision, off the bowling of left-arm spinner Robin Peterson, in the 15th over of the chase.
Rain came down as if on cue and another break was enforced, this time, thankfully, without a reworked target. The Proteas madeanother breakthrough when Hashim Amla's brilliant work at the deep mid-wicket boundary caused Darren Bravo's run out.
But if South Africa through it was all over but for the shouting, Marlon Samuels had different plans.
In a terrifying sequence of hitting, Samuels struck 6, 4, 4, 6, 4, 4 off McLaren and Peterson bringing the West Indies right back in the hunt, needing 85 off the last ten overs. Steyn, however, uprooted Samuels' middle stump in an expensive over that went for 14. Pollard took on the mantle of scoring. He succeeded, only to fall to his instinct of going for the big shot when it was not really needed.
A steady drizzle first reduced the game to 36 overs a side and then, just after Dwayne Bravo had elected to field, it poured some more. Amla and Ingram finally walked out for a 31-overs per team contest, and provided a solid 80-run partnership that was dominated by the southpaw.
The openers often had to fend off deliveries in the region of 150 kmph from Tino Best, who was playing for the ill Kemar Roach; but pace is pointless without direction and Amla powered him with ease through the legside, before being splayed by a vicious yorker that caught the bat end on its way to jamming his toes.
Ingram dealt with the predictably short fare from Ravi Rampaul with a series of confident pulls and then edged Sunil Narine, who was introduced in the last over of the Powerplay, fortuitously wide of slip.
The engineer of the most dot balls in this tournament was then lofted out of the park. Ingram repeated the shot in Darren Sammy’s first over – a monstrous shot back over the bowler’s head – and brought up his half-century in 46 balls with a masterly pulled four, as South Africa reached 100 in the 15th over.
West Indies tasted first success when Amla was taken by Chris Gayle, third attempt at short cover, off Marlon Samuels’ first ball. Ingram had survived a few edges through and wide of slip – he was eventually out to Kieron Pollard’s slower ball with score on 124.
New man JP Duminy soon followed suit gloving a Dwayne Bravo bouncer foolishly down the leg-side to the ‘keeper.
When Best returned, de Villiers (37) used his prodigious pace to help him over fine-leg for six and speared a full-toss through cover for four.
De Villiers ominous stay was abruptly ended when Darren Bravo – body perpendicular to terra firma – snatched an absolute blinder at mid-wicket.
South Africa had now lost three relatively quick and key wickets. But David Miller (38) and Faf du Plessis (35) brought them back on track with a hurtling 68-run stand in just eight overs. Miller struck Powerplay sixes off Pollard and Bravo as 51 came in the last five. Both young Turks were out in the last over, by when the damage had been done.
Fantasy cricket: Did you pick Colin Ingram in your XI?
South Africa in semis after thrilling tie
West Indies heart-broken in rain-ravaged match.Yahoo! Cricket – Fri 14 Jun, 2013 5:48 PM IST
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