TELFORD VICE in London
OUTBATTED. Outbowled. Outfielded. Outcaptained. Outthought. Outplayed. Outdone. And out of the Champions Trophy.
India beat them, officially by eight wickets but in reality in every which way, and in a few others, in their last group game at The Oval on Sunday.
Winning was non-negotiable for South Africa if they were to reach the semi-finals.
Instead, they played their worst cricket when it mattered most and suffered their 19th nervous breakdown in the 20 International Cricket Council tournaments since readmission in 1991.
South Africa’s fading exception to their usual showing on a stage of this size was the 1998 Wills International Cup, the precursor to the Champions Trophy, which they won.
Kagiso Rabada was three years old on that happy day.
Imran Tahir, the old man of the side at 38, was a sprightly 19 and had played only 47 of the 743 games of cricket of all shades that he has graced since he was a teenager.
It really was that long ago, and performances like Sunday’s will only push South Africa’s sole success further into the memory.
Ahead of it are moments like Steve Palframan dropping Brian Lara on his way to a century in the 1996 World Cup quarter-final, Lance Klusener and Allan Donald sharing a brain freeze with one run needed to beat Australia in the 1999 World Cup semi-final, and the entire squad and support staff failing to read a Duckworth/Lewis sheet properly during a group game against Sri Lanka at the 2003 World Cup.
To that little lot, add the second ball of the 28th over on Sunday.
Ravindra Jadeja bowled to Faf du Plessis, who pushed to point for a non-existent single.
AB de Villiers’ heart was in it as he flew in from the non-striker’s end.
But his bat wasn’t, despite a full-length, and he was run out.
Five balls later, David Miller sped towards Du Plessis’ after the latter had cut Ravichandran Ashwin to short third man.
Du Plessis set off only to think better of it and turn – and race Miller to the same crease.
Miller was sacrificed after the umpires parsed the details of what had happened.
De Villiers’ wicket was the first in an avalanche of 8/41, which condemned South Africa to a hopelessly inadequate total of 191.
“I take full responsibility for AB’s runout; that’s my fault,” Du Plessis said.
“Dave came in and we discussed how extremely loud it was out there and difficult to hear each other.
“So the communication between the two of us was, just for the next five overs, play it as risk-free as possible.
“Try and get the partnership going — settle the partnership.
“Because the last thing you want to do is go wicket, wicket.
“And then, two or three balls later, there’s a miscommunication and then Dave ran, and it’s not a great sight to see two guys standing in the same crease.”
Du Plessis himself was out 5.1 overs after De Villiers went when he chopped on to Hardik Pandya.
“Those five overs, in a game like today, that is very, very big,” Du Plessis said.
“You either settle and get through the pressure and absorb it or you don’t, and we didn’t.
“India dominated us in all aspects and that shouldn’t happen.
“We are much better team than that. We wanted to get the basics right and we didn’t.
“We were poor today.”
So, what to do before the 2019 World Cup?
“I’m not thinking about the next one now,” De Villiers said.
“We just want to get through this hurt now, because it’s hurting quite bad.
“I’ve not thought about what we are going to think about our next tournament.”
Why should he keep captaining South Africa?
Did he even want to?
“Because I’m a good captain,” De Villiers said.
“And I can take this team forward.
“I can take us to win a World Cup, I believe.
“I love doing it.”
Careful, AB – love hurts.