South Africa head coach Ottis Gibson and captain Faf du Plessis in happier times... before the match against New Zealand at Edgbaston on Wednesday. Photo: Action Images/Reuters
The Westin Hotel in Cape Town. Ottis Gibson surrounded by microphones. Feel it, it is here. #CWC19 was mere moments away.

Gibson was in a pleasant mood. He always is, isn’t he?

He spoke confidently about South Africa’s chances at the upcoming World Cup. He wasn’t concerned at that stage about Dale Steyn’s crocked shoulder. And he believed South Africa’s pace attack would be the team’s 'X-factor' here in England and Wales.

God loves a dreamer, doesn’t he?

Throughout Gibson’s media session I couldn’t stop myself from drifting though. It wasn’t that the Barbadian was not engaging, but rather a feeling that this was all a bit too soon. I felt compelled to share my thoughts with one of the Proteas' team management.

“Can you believe it's four years?” I asked.

“Yes, time flies,” was the response.

“Yeah, I know. But I still feel like Auckland was yesterday.”

“Oh, no! You have to let go.”

“I want to, but Eden Park the crowd the noise that SIX!”

“You really are going there. Stop it! It’s done! We have to look forward.”

Maybe those who were at Edgbaston 1999, or even the '438' game at the Wanderers would disagree, but the 2015 World Cup semi-final at Eden Park will remain the greatest ODI in my book.

It was simply the most compelling drama I have ever witnessed. From the very first ball to the last, it was tension-filled. Almost like being sprayed by a skunk, the stain of that game has never left me.

I have a confession. I have never watched it again. No highlights package on television. Nothing on YouTube. I only have recollection of the live events.

Occasionally, particularly during this World Cup, the Grant Elliott moment has been broadcasted. Even that still makes me cringe though with all the emotions flooding back.

It’s like getting flashbacks of an horrific car crash.

Maybe it’s the fact that I left the stadium at 3am that Auckland morning with my colleague, Stuart Hess, who had to make his way straight to the airport for a flight to Melbourne, and Media24 counterpart Eduan Roos - who ironically now lives in Auckland.

Furthermore, due to a looming deadline, I never went home that night and filed from Roos’ apartment in the heart of Auckland city, only to proceed to my quarters at 6am, wandering the Main Street looking like a nightclub straggler. It really was the walk of shame.

But why I am taking you down this stroll of nightmare past?

For the simple fact that Edgbaston on Wednesday stirred up all those emotions again.

It was inevitable that questions building up to the clash would look back at events of four years previously. Both Trent Boult and Quinton de Kock were prepared for it too.

And they both spoke about the immense impact it had on them personally. In fact, it was the only question De Kock answered with any form of confidence in the 11 minutes he addressed the media.

“Auckland, that was pretty intense, especially experiencing it from a first time ever, that vibe that was going through the stadium. It was just so noisy. You’re just trying to concentrate, but it was tough to deal with it,” De Kock said.

Boult, meanwhile, said: “I remember hoping like heck that I don’t have to bat, sitting in the little gazebo down there at Eden Park, but when we saw the ball soar over the fence in the last couple of balls there, it was pretty ecstatic and a pretty cool feeling.”

All of this I was prepared for. I felt a connection with the players for it was an indeed a special night.

What I wasn’t expecting was for the actual match to be so eerily similar.

From the moment De Kock and Hashim Amla strode out to the crease, I was back in Auckland. And it just didn’t stop. Boult once again - just like in 2015 - won his battle with De Kock upfront.

South Africa may not have created the momentum in their innings like four years previously, but the drama was only beginning.

There is an article published ahead of the 2015 World Cup by the esteemed Jarrod Kimber, cricket author and movie producer, that South Africa “don’t do boring” at World Cups. They are the one team that will inevitably produce thrills, and of course, spills at the World Cup.

Kimber might as well have re-published it for 2019. This World Cup has been devoid of real theatre thus far in the group stages with the weather, and rain in particular, being the focus of discussion. It needed something to ignite it. Enter South Africa, almost on cue.

The spectacle that unfolded might as well have been a sequel: Eden Park II.

The Proteas have a special way of imploding. Only they are able to replicate such chaos. Remember Rillee Rossouw’s wild throw to AB de Villiers? Replace it with Kagiso Rabada’s wayward bullet to David Miller.

Even the mix-up on the boundary was back. The image of Farhaan Behardien, mouth wide open, grimacing in anticipation for a clash with JP Duminy, and the ball nowhere to be seen, remains one of the lasting images of 2015.

Miller and Rabada were now the villains. And again it was an unheralded Black Caps all-rounder that benefited from South Africa’s calamities. The fact that that they both originate from so close to home adds further insult to injury.

Previously, Elliot was, of course, South African. At least it was a bit further north this time with Colin de Grandhomme born in Zimbabwe.

The similarities were not done though. It could easily have been 12 runs required off the final over again, but for Kane Williamson’s touch of supreme class off the final ball of the penultimate over messing with the script.

And if that was not enough, there was once again a geeky-looking left-arm spinning all-rounder at the crease for New Zealand in the final over when the winning runs were struck.

It was all just too much for me. Emotion over-kill.

At least I wasn’t alone in my thinking that it was too soon. Proteas captain Faf du Plessis was of a similar mindset during the aftermath: “You know, it almost feels like two years ago (sic) against New Zealand again”.

South Africa’s 2019 World Cup campaign here in the UK has virtually run its course. But once again there are fresh scars that need to heal over the next four years. Hopefully by then we’ll all have recovered.

@ZaahierAdams 


Weekend Argus 

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