And so the wait goes on. South Africa have now lost in the semifinals of seven global ICC tournaments – three World Cups, two Champions Trophies and two World Twenty20s – and are the only major nation not to have won an ICC event in 16 years.
Friday evening’s disappointment will hurt the latest group of Proteas players, not only because the barren run has been extended, at least, until next year’s World Cup in Australasia, but because they had given themselves the best opportunity since Edgbaston 1999 with a solid batting performance.
It will be even more galling because for once they were not the architects of their own downfall when the pressure was at its most intense.
Some might argue that delivering nine wides in a T20 semifinal is sign of not being able to execute skills under pressure, and there is some truth in that, but the six-wicket defeat to India at the Shere Bangla National Stadium was not the result of losing the mental battle – India beat South Africa with their skills, through Virat Kohli’s bat and MS Dhoni’s tactical acumen.
Under Dhoni’s leadership, India arrive at major ICC tournaments with a championship-winning aura, created through their World Cup and Champions Trophy victories over the past few years.
They play the “big points” well and find unlikely heroes to step in when the tide is seemingly turning against them. Think Ishant Sharma in last year’s Champions Trophy final against England in Birmingham when he came back from being India’s most expensive bowler to claim two vital wickets.
South Africa had players like that at this World T20, players who recognised the opportunity to “make a play” and had the confidence to back their skills. Duminy was one, with the left-hander delivering on the promise he showed a decade ago. Western Province picked him as the first teenager since Herschelle Gibbs for a first-class debut.
He topped the Proteas’ run-scoring list, accumulating 187 at an average 62.33, and a strike rate of 140.60.
Imran Tahir bagged 12 wickets at 10.91 with Dale Steyn following him closely on nine scalps.
This is why Proteas coach Russell Domingo feels despondent about the semifinal defeat, but not frantic in the build up to the 50-overs World Cup next year.
“It was very disappointing to lose to India,” Domingo said. “But we played good cricket for most of the game. We made a few basic errors which proved costly. We know that South Africa haven’t won a knockout game for 11/12 games now, and that we need to work through that as a team, but I believe there are lots of positives to take from this tournament.
“We are on the right track. This team has a good future leading up to the World Cup.
“JP is a quality player. I’ve always thought he is our leading T20 player statistically, because he plays the situation very well.
“I was very happy with the way Faf (du Plessis) went about his business. Dale was outstanding, Immy was great and a young guy like Beuran (Hendricks) put in a big performances under pressure.”
Domingo expressed his faith in the side, claiming that most in this group would also be involved in the Proteas One-Day International team.
“There is a good future for this team. It is a major positive that the majority of this team form the nucleus of the one-day team as well… we can build on that,” Domingo said.
“It’s disappointing to exit the tournament because we believe we are good enough to win tournaments like these, but we are on the right track.
“We played some good games under pressure earlier in the tournament and the way we handled some of those tough situations can only stand us in good stead going forward,” he said. - Weekend Argus