After several ICC tournaments in which South Africa had come out on the wrong end of close finishes, they finally had reason to smile on Friday (June 14) after a rain-affected virtual knockout match against West Indies ended with the scores tied via the Duckworth-Lewis method.
Given South Africa's superior net run-rate, they joined India as the second team to qualify for the semifinals of the Champions Trophy from Group B, burying a few ghosts of defeats past.
"It feels great," said AB de Villiers, the South Africa captain. "We've been on the wrong side of these kind of matches in the past quite a few times... I thought we played really good cricket (for) most of the game today. The way the bowlers stuck together as a unit was really great."
De Villiers revealed that he was aware of the D/L par score, given that it was flashed on the scoreboard all through, but not knowing when, or if, the umpires were going to call off play made things difficult.
"The Duckworth-Lewis was on the scoreboard the whole time, which made it quite easy for us to follow and to sort of plan," he explained. "But it was raining for the last half an hour, so it made it really difficult to know when exactly the umpire was going to call it. It was getting heavier, and the ball got really wet. It got quite dangerous and slippery out there, as well. All in all, I think they made a good call, and I was happy they didn't make the call about 15 minutes before then, but I think we got the bounce of the ball today, and we'll take that bit of luck and go into the semifinals with it."
South Africa came into the tournament without two of their stalwarts in Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, lost Morne Morkel early and didn't have Dale Steyn for two of the three league matches, but de Villiers made light of the absences, and said the squad couldn't be much better than it was now.
"Honestly looking at our performances from the last week, I don't think our lineup can get a lot better than it is right now," he said. "It's been amazing performances all around. It's made my job very easy as a captain. Our batting line-up is one of our strengths, and I'm looking forward to see that kind of skill and talent come through in the next two knock~CHECK~out games."
Steyn provided the key breakthrough, castling an in-form Marlon Samuels, and kept things tight otherwise in a high-scoring match, and de Villiers acknowledged that he was their "X factor" and carried the team with him.
"I called on him a few times today, especially the last spell into the wind, and he picked up a vital wicket for us," said de Villiers. "The way he handled the pressure and the way he actually gave his best for the team was very inspiring. I think everyone learnt a lot from that, and he made the whole bowling unit follow him. They all had something to aspire to, and it worked out, so a lot of credit has got to go to him."
Steyn's spell came after a quickfire half-century from Colin Ingram had first given South Africa a good total. Ingram, who shared an 80-run opening stand with Hashim Amla, said seeing off the first few overs was the key after South Africa had been put in.
"The two new balls have probably posed more of a challenge than we thought. The first few overs it dipped around. I definitely felt that if they had bowled better areas we might have been in a bit more trouble, but credit to Hash (Amla) and myself, we just sort of stuck in there and tried to look for bad balls."
De Villiers, however, deserved a lion's share of the credit for a crucial cameo (37 off 26) and for marshaling his troops well towards the end. "So two knock~CHECK~out games in a row, we're in the semifinals, need I say more," he said, adding, "It's going to be up to a few other teams to try and stop us."