Cricket gods finally smiling on the Proteas

South Africa’s Tabraiz Shamsi’s three-wicket haul against the West Indies helped ensure the Proteas qualified for the semi-finals of the ICC T20 World Cup. | AFP

South Africa’s Tabraiz Shamsi’s three-wicket haul against the West Indies helped ensure the Proteas qualified for the semi-finals of the ICC T20 World Cup. | AFP

Published Jun 26, 2024


EVERYTHING that could have gone wrong has gone wrong for the Proteas at the ongoing T20 World Cup. Everything that is usually enough to see the Proteas run into a brick wall at World Cups, and get eliminated, has transpired.

However, captain Aiden Markram and his troops are still in the tournament, preparing for their first T20 World Cup semi-final in years.

Right from the build-up, when key Proteas players were on Indian Premier League (IPL) duty days before the World Cup, chances looked very slim for South Africa. The captain himself had been with the team for only two to three days before the start of the showpiece event, which normally would not bode well for the team.

Team camaraderie, and whether the players would be in sync in time for a congested tournament, were questioned. Despite their power-packed middle order, there was nothing else of substance to speak about surrounding the Proteas World Cup squad.

There was no excitement, and no favourites or dark horse tags pinned on the team leading into the tournament.

Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada, two of leaders of the bowling attack, had been in the worst form we had seen.

Nortje was returning from injury, while Rabada had returned early from the IPL due to a lower limb soft tissue infection.

All the more reason to send the team and fans into panic mode, weeks before the World Cup.

Moreover, the side had been drawn to play three of their four group-stage fixtures in unfamiliar territory in New York at a venue using drop-in pitches. Playing in some of the format’s most horrendous conditions yet, where the surface was inconsistent and the outfield sluggish, the Proteas prevailed.

Their accommodation was also about 90 minutes’ drive from the Nassau County International Stadium. Essentially, the side was travelling from Grahamstown to Port Elizabeth on match day.

As if that was not enough, South Africa had been drawn in the same group as the Dutch, a team that had knocked South Africa out of the last edition in Australia.

However, an inspired batting effort from David Miller saw South Africa beat the Dutch and it was during that close victory that stars started to align for South Africa.

At last, the cricket gods and the Proteas were on the same side.

Even the rain in the virtual quarter-final against the West Indies in Antigua or the controversial dead-ball call during the encounter against Bangladesh could not stop the Proteas express as they marched on to the semi-finals unbeaten.

Finally, the Proteas are winning matches from winning positions and some from losing positions, an achievement unique only to this campaign and group of players. Despite the difficult journey, Proteas players will once again lace up their boots for a semi-final dance, one that has got the better of the Proteas since readmission.

Could it be that this is the time that South Africa will reach their first World Cup final?

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