Kieron Pollard’s wicket at a crucial juncture proved to be the difference as South Africa barely managed to secure a semifinal berth in the Champions Trophy despite their Group ‘B’ match against the West Indies ending in a tie under the Duckworth/Lewis method,here today.
Chasing an imposing 231-run target to win in 31 overs in the rain-curtailed match,West Indies were 190 for six in 26.1 overs when the heavens opened up once again to bring an early end to the decisive game at Sophia Gardens.
Had Pollard not got out after scoring a 23-ball 28,the par for the West Indies would have been 187 for five under the D/L method.
But the hard-hitting batsman was dismissed by Ryan McLaren just before the rain intervened,dashing West Indies hopes of earning a semifinal berth.
West Indies needed 41 runs off 4.5 overs when play was called off and at that stage,they were required to have scored 193 for six under D/L method.
Darren Sammy and skipper Dwayne Bravo were left stranded at the crease as the on-field umpires decided to call off the match after brief discussion.
South Africa ended their league engagements with three points from as many matches while West Indies also finished with the same margin but the Proteas advanced to the knockout stage on account of better net run-rate.
India are the other team to have qualified from Group B after finishing their league engagements with four points.
Chris Morris got the prized-wicket of danger-man Chris Gayle in the 12th over just when the big-bodied Jamaican looked like opening up after hitting a few boundaries.
Gayle scored 27-ball 36 with the help of five fours and a straight six down the wicket before curtains were drawn on his short cameo.
West Indies slipped further into misery when they lost the important wicket of Devon Smith (30),trapped leg before by left-arm spinner Robin Peterson,just before the rain halted the proceedings in the 15th over for a brief period.
There was no co-ordination while running between the wickets as Darren Bravo was run out for 12 after a horrible mix-up with Samuels as the Calypso Charmers were left reeling at 104 for four in 18 overs.
West Indies were in dire need of a partnership and it looked like the experienced pair of Marlon Samuels and Pollard were just the right ones for the job.
Samuels put on display audacious stroke play and punished the South African bowlers with an eye on D/L par score in case the fickle English weather plays spoilsport.
Samuels played some fantastic cricket shots all around the park to bring his team back into the contention.
The West Indian hit six fours and two sixes in his 52-ball 48 before Dale Steyn was called back for his second spell and he again proved why he’s the best bowler in the world.
Steyn fired a darting straight ball that was fuller than before which uprooted the middle stump of the West Indian.
Samuels was left standing with the front leg opened up as he was beaten by the mix of pace,seam and skid off.
Pollard tried to tide things up but his wicket proved crucial just before the rain.
Earlier,opener Colin Ingram struck a fluent half-century while David Miller played an unbeaten cameo of 38 as South Africa posted a formidable 230 for six.
South Africa’s fifth-wicket pair of Miller and Faf du Plessis (32-ball 35) put on display some sensational strokeplay at the business end of the innings and added 68 runs in just 48 deliveries to put their side in the driver’s seat.
From 153 for four in the 23rd over,both took their side to 221 for five as the last five overs yielded 52 runs for the Proteas.
Miller’s unbeaten knock of 38 was laced with three huge sixes and a four while Plessis decorated his useful innings with three fours and a six.
Ingram hit 63-ball 73 laced with six fours and two sixes while skipper Villiers hit a 25-ball 37 after South Africa were invited to bat first under overcast conditions.
The match started three hours and 15 minutes late than the scheduled toss due to inclement weather.
South Africa made a confident start as the opening duo of Ingram and Hashim Amla (23) added 80 runs for the first wicket in 12.1 overs. Ingram was the more aggressive of the two as he mixed caution with aggression to pace his innings while Amla was content to play the second fiddle at the other end.
With the pair of Ingram and Amla looking threatening,Bravo introduced Samuels into the attack and the move paid immediate dividends. Samuels got the prized-wicket of Amla,who went for an expensive drive but was caught on rebound by Gayle at extra-cover.
West Indies tried to pull things back with two quick strikes as Ingram and Duminy (2) departed in quick succession. Ingram hit a couple more fours before being caught by Bravo off Pollard at deep midwicket while Duminy ended up gloving the delivery to wicketkeeper Charles off Bravo.
De Villiers departed after taking his side past 150-run mark when Bravo pulled off a stunner at midwicket off Ravi Rampaul with both feet in the air and body slanted.
Miller and Plessis then combined well and punished the West Indian bowlers with their powerful strikes.