It was so predictable and yet nobody expected it to happen. South Africa, widely hailed as this tournament's most complete side, tumbled out of the competition yesterday at the hands of New Zealand.
In one way it was a stunning result; in another, a continuation of the Proteas' dismal World Cup record. They have now lost all the knockout matches they've played in this competition since returning to the international fold in 1992. They face four more years of being labelled chokers.
But if this was an agonising quarter-final defeat for South Africa – and whichever way you cut it, it was – it was another famous win for the Kiwis, who seem to save their best for the World Cup. Their hero was Jacob Oram, later named the man of the match. He took two brilliant catches and captured 4 for 39 with his nagglingly accurate medium pace after the South Africans appeared to be cruising to victory in pursuit of a modest victory target of 222.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith was understandably grim-faced afterwards as he prepared for the inevitable barrage of questions about his team's temperament. His side's defeat will be so hard to explain: they have the best all-rounder in Jacques Kallis, the best new-ball partnership in Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel and there is not a better side in the field. The addition of Pakistan-born leg-spinner Imran Tahir had seemed to add the only missing ingredient. And still they lost.
"There's no words to describe how I feel. We just have to take it on the chin. It's been a very disappointing evening," Smith said. "We kept them to 220, which is very gettable and we just needed to keep our composure."
If Smith, who captained his side superbly in the field, was inconsolable, Oram was delighted. He said that he had never been prouder. "We've got a talented bunch but unfortunately we are also inconsistent," Oram said. "But I've never been prouder to have a silver fern on, considering we were written off before this game."
South Africa had reached 108 for 2 shortly before the halfway point with their premier batsman Kallis well set on 47. But Kallis was magnificently caught on the boundary by Oram off Tim Southee, JP Duminy was bowled for three and AB de Villiers run out two balls later for 35 by an extraordinary stop and throw by Martin Guptill.
New Zealand, who had fielded tenaciously and bowled with spirit, piled on the pressure with Oram taking two more quick wickets. Faf du Plessis, who was dropped by Oram on 29, hit the New Zealander for six off the next ball before holing out to Southee for 36. Morkel (3) was the last man to fall as South Africa collapsed for 172 off 43.2 overs.
"Every bowler stepped up. The fielding got us through and credit to Martin Guptill, who was amazing," said the New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori. "Once we got 220, we knew we had to be aggressive. We were hanging in there even when Kallis and De Villiers got their partnership going. Once we got De Villiers and Kallis out, we believed we could go all the way. The run out of De Villiers [by Guptill] was amazing."
Jesse Ryder anchored the New Zealand innings with 83, his maiden World Cup half-century. But although the Kiwis became the only team in the tournament to bat through against South Africa their eventual total of 221 for 8 seemed well short of a challenging total.
However, team spirit and discipline triumphed and it is the New Zealanders who will face the winners of today's quarter-final in Colombo on Tuesday. By then, the South Africans will be back home with only their regrets for company.
South Africa's other World Cup chokes
1992 v England, semi-finals
Rain rules, since changed, altered South Africa's victory target from 22 off 13 balls to 21 off 1 in their first tournament since their readmission.
1996 v West Indies, quarter-finals
After showing imperious form in the group stages, winning five of five, the Proteas erred badly in selection, dropping star quick Allan Donald. Brian Lara's brilliant 111 sends them out.
1999 v Australia, semi-finals
With a single needed to win Donald ran when he didn't have to – there were two balls left and Lance Klusener was on strike – and he was run out. The match was tied and South Africa were out early again, having finished behind Australia in the Super Six. In an earlier meeting, Herschelle Gibbs dropped Steve Waugh, prompting the (possibly fictional) quip "you've just dropped the World Cup".
2003 v Sri Lanka, group match
Playing at home, heavy rain affected matters in Durban. South Africa misread the Duckworth/Lewis sheets – believing 229 to be the target, when it was 230. The resultant tie put paid to their hopes of reaching the Super Six stages.
New Zealand won toss
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
M J Guptill c Botha b Steyn 1/0/0/14/22
†B B McCullum c & b Peterson 4/0/0/4/5
J D Ryder c Sub b Tahir 83/0/8/121/153
L R P L Taylor c Kallis b Tahir 43/1/1/72/110
S B Styris b Morkel 16/0/3/17/15
K S Williamson not out 38/1/1/41/61
N L McCullum c Duminy b Steyn 6/0/0/18/27
J D P Oram b Morkel 8/0/1/6/12
*D L Vettori b Morkel 6/0/1/4/2
L J Woodcock not out 3/0/0/3/6
Extras (b4 lb3 w6) 13
Total (for 8, 50 overs) 221
Fall: 1-5, 2-16, 3-130, 4-153, 5-156, 6-188, 7-204, 8-210.
Did not bat: T G Southee.
Bowling: R J Peterson 9-0-49-1, D W Steyn 10-0-43-2, J Botha 9-0-29-0, M Morkel 8-0-46-3, Imran Tahir 9-0-32-2, J H Kallis 3-1-6-0, J P Duminy 2-0-9-0.
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
H M Amla c Vettori b N L McCullum 7/0/1/5/4
*G C Smith c Sub b Oram 28/0/2/34/58
J H Kallis c Oram b Southee 47/0/3/75/94
†A B de Villiers run out 35/0/4/40/61
J P Duminy b N L McCullum 3/0/0/12/14
F du Plessis c Southee b Oram 36/1/3/43/67
J Botha b Oram 2/0/0/10/15
R J Peterson c B B McCullum b Oram 0/0/0/55
D W Steyn c Oram b N L McCullum 8/0/1/18/11
M Morkel c Sub b Woodcock 3/0/0/17/27
Imran Tahir not out 0/0/0/1/1
Extras (lb2 w1) 3
Total (43.2 overs)172
Fall: 1-8, 2-69, 3-108, 4-121, 5-121, 6-128, 7-132, 8-146, 9-172.
Bowling: N McCullum 10-1-24-3, Vettori 10-0-39-0, Southee 9-0-44-1, Oram 9-1-39-4, Woodcock 5.2-0-24-1.Reuse content