While it’s not enough to gloss over a dismal overall campaign, the Proteas managed to end their World Cup with a thrilling ten-run win over Australia in Manchester on Saturday night.
In a performance that will leave some supporters wondering what if, Faf du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen led South Africa’s best batting performance of the tournament before a varied attack managed to defend 326 on a superb batting surface.
From a semifinal perspective, this match will possibly give the Aussies a kick up the backside in their quest for a sixth title, while the Proteas jump up to seventh in the points table.
Batting first after winning the toss, Du Plessis crafted a superb 100 off just 94 deliveries, laying the foundation for an imposing total.
Yet, given how South Africa’s future is in focus with JP Duminy and Imran Tahir playing in their last ODIs and various others are expected to consider their further participation, it was another man’s effort that stole the show.
Rassie van der Dussen confirmed that he’s one of the key figures in the uncertain times that lie ahead, brilliantly reaching the highest score of his fledgling international career.
The 30-year-old right-hander has become a hero in the setup, impressing with the way he knows his game inside-out.
He struggled badly at the start, making his first 5 runs off 25 balls and his first 20 off 40.
But Van der Dussen caught up brilliantly, eventually hitting four sixes on his way to a 97-ball 95 and takes his career average to 74.
Earlier, Quinton de Kock (52) and Aiden Markram (34) got their side off to a fine start, feasting on the Aussies’ vaunted pace attack in scoring 79 runs in just under 12 overs.
Australia looked buried when Glenn Maxwell departed to leave the Baggy Greens 119/4 – with Usman Khawaja also retired hurt – before the indomitable David Warner and rising star Alex Carey turned the tide.
Warner was magnificent in making his 122 off 117, but it was his wicketkeeping partner that will have the Australians hoping they have a new Adam Gilchrist on the horizon.
Carey showed expert judgment in hitting 85 off just 69 balls.
However, Kagiso Rabada (3/56) bowled with fire and skill and Dwaine Pretorius (2/27) delivered a crucial, canny spell to snuff out the Aussie hopes.
Tahir took the key wicket of in-form Aaron Finch though a wayward last over saw him finish with 1/59 in nine overs.