Kingsmead curse haunts Proteas

2007-09-21 10:06

Kass Naidoo

The rain may have stayed away from Kingsmead and Duckworth Lewis had no part to play, but Hurricane India spoiled South Africa's T20 party on Thursday night, ironically on a pitch more suited to the home side.

Everyone assumed it would be India fighting for survival in the Twenty20 World Championship, but at 31/5, suddenly it was South Africa staring down the barrel and in danger of a sensational exit from the inaugural event.

There were flashbacks to South Africa's 2003 horror Cricket World Cup exit, as a nervous Shaun Pollock looked down at the action from the players' balcony. He had every reason to be concerned.

India's bowlers were all over the South Africans "like a rash" to quote Indian commentator, Ravi Shastri, and in the end, the Proteas fell an agonising 10 runs short of sneaking into the semi-finals.

They'll be devastated; especially since they were the only unbeaten team in the tournament before last night, a similar situation to what happened to South Africa in the Cricket World Cup in 1996.

How did it get to this? There were frantic calls around South Africa last night as friends tried to digest the various permutations after India had completed their innings.

Mass appeal

The cold, hard facts were South Africa needed 126 to qualify, 142 to lose, but still qualify top of the group and 154 to win the match and top the standings.

In the end, they missed all three targets. I guess that's T20 for you; you can never predict what's about to happen, and that's a big part of its mass appeal.

But South Africa will look back at last night's loss, and know that they let themselves down in a few departments, especially their fielding and bowling at the "death"; they needed a big performance, and it just didn't materialise.

Nasser Hussain was quick to remind Graeme Smith at the post match presentation that South Africa have failed to win major tournaments in the past when playing impressive cricket, and suggested that maybe they missed a player like Jacques Kallis.

Whatever the case, you've got to take your hat off to India; it was a monumental performance led by the rockstar-like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, whose captaincy has injected tremendous energy into this Indian team.

The commentators made quite a bit of the pitch being too bowler-friendly for a Twenty20 international. No doubt it will please the Indians more that they beat the South Africans on a pitch tailored for the home team. RP Singh used the conditions magnificently, bagging 4-13.

I am still stunned that South Africa are OUT of the T20.

It just doesn't feel right, but that's the way it is... and they'll once again have to answer questions from the media about whether they choked.

In Saturday's semi-finals New Zealand play Pakistan in Cape Town and India play Australia in Durban.

Many will be rooting for a Pakistan v India Heritage Day final at a sold-out Wanderers on Monday.

However, I get a feeling that good old Australia could just sneak it in the end.

  • Kass Naidoo is editor of gsport... for Girls!

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