Will Tuesday bring South Africa's fans more despair they have lived through all the World Cups thus far, or will there be elation?
Not for the first time, two teams came together for a head-to-head clash with radically different mindsets. One of the most anticipated matches of the Super 8s, this was a battle between two teams realistic with the potential to life the Cup within the next fortnight. This battle carried the potential of a long range effect! New Zealand is in the semi-finals. But the road for South Africa has been marred, and the air hangs heavy!
South Africa rescued the rocky boat from the blemish filled debacle against Bangladesh to stage a remarkable recovery against the West Indies. Graeme Smith felt was it was the far from cramped style approach they had adopted against the lowly ranked team that had made the difference. New Zealand was barely coming to terms with the transition from being the under dogs to the dark horses to outright favourites. That though took a blow against a resurgent Sri Lankan side that strangled their chances ever so slightly and blunted their aspirations.
But there could be only one winner on the day and yet again, the most dominant thought on the mind was, was South Africa proactively creating a new shade to their World Cup jinx? Seemingly unbeatable, South Africa appeared to go from strength to strength. Spurned by their number one tag, South Africa began this campaign like most others with the World Cup looming rather interestingly in front of them.
But yet again it has come unraveling in the most unpretentious form, leaving the team thread bare to speculation. After putting most other lowly teams to rest, against Bangladesh, South Africa appeared in a strange mood that seemed to suggest the team was not yet ready to take the field. They dutifully paid the price and a heavy one at that! It not only cost them two precious points (which one hopes that they do not end up regretting), but a huge dent to their rising status as world beaters.
Just when they seemed to be losing the chokers tag, South Africa once again stifled under the duress that the New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming set about inflicting upon the South Africans. But not even Fleming would have expected South Africa to cower in easily. It would be easy to predict South Africas mindset at the fall of Graeme Smiths wicket. Smith stood a long while pondering on the pitch and actually stood aside and let the incoming batsman know that the pitch was playing on his mind. It was no wonder then the team seemed to be playing under the premise of a misbehaving pitch and no one quite broke out of that shell, or should we say, hell hole.
There must be a few doubts creeping. Even the most labourious of New Zealand victories will have failed to satisfy the bruised South African egos. In a situation where two victories out of four would have seen them through to the semifinals, South African fans are set yet again tantalizingly poised on a knife edge knowing the team needs an outright victory first against England to dream of a semi final. It is perceptible that the team that started out with tremendous self-belief is in a state of shock and still looking at the pitch for answers.
Surely Craig Macmillan did not deserve three wickets, if South Africa had anything to do with it. It is true the pitch played truant which is why Fleming had no qualms in inserting South Africa in to bat after having experienced a similar debacle against Sri Lanka. But where South Africa rose above deceptive pitch conditions, oppositions, and run rate pressures against the West Indies, they appeared spun around by their constricting web from which they would be little recovery. They were done for, even before being two down with only two runs in the third over!
Even England fans know the insipid performance of their team does not deserve them a place in the semi finals. But could South Africa be sabotaging their own seemingly facile road. Will there be elation? Or will there be despair that the fans have lived through, through all of South Africas campaigns in the World Cups thus far? Tuesday will tell all!