World Cup countdown: Another World Cup, another heartbreak for South Africa
Shaun Pollock (left) looks on as rain falls during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 Pool B match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at Kingsmead. The match ended in a tie. (Getty Image)

In the build-up to the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, CricketCountry brings to you the most memorable moments and matches from the tournament over the years – right from its first edition, way back in 1975. With 43 days to go, in our latest World Cup Countdown we rewind to yet another underwhelming performance from South Africa, which sent them packing from the tournament.

When the 2003 World Cup came to South Africa, it was believed that the Proteas would finally be able to shed the chokers tag and take the next big stride by winning a major ICC trophy. With the pain of the two previous heartbreaks still bothering them – the infamous exit from the 1992 World Cup and the dramatic run-out of Allan Donald seven years later – this was South Africa’s biggest opportunity to turn the tide and break the jinx.

However, South Africa did not have the best of starts to the tournament and it was left to their final league game against Sri Lanka to have a shot at progressing into the next round. They needed a victory to make it to the Super Sixes. But as luck would have it, once again, South Africa fell short having reached the cusp of qualification when the match ended in a tie (D/L method) due to rain with Sri Lanka emerging winners.

This is how it panned out. Sanath Jayasuriya won the toss and opted to bat at the Kingsmead, Durban. Needing a win to confirm their qualification into the Super 6’s, Marvan Atapattu scored a sublime century, and aided by Aravinda de Silva’s breezy 73, allowed Sri Lanka to set South Africa a target of 268. It was pretty much as gettable target, but with dark clouds hovering and overcast conditions lurking, it wasn’t over before it was actually over.

In chase, South Africa responded well with Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs forging a 50-plus stand for the opening wicket. The team approached the chase with one eye on the Duckworth-Lewis target, just in case the heavens opened up. Everything seemed to be in control and the crowd, in anticipation of a successful run chase waited with bated breath. But as fate would have it, it was yet another scenario of so near and yet so far for the Proteas.

With Smith, Gary Kirsten and Jacques Kallis departing in quick succession, Sri Lanka grabbed the upper hand. But South Africa were kept in the game by Gibbs, who continued to bat with positivity. But once Gibbs was dismissed, bowled by Muttiah Muralitharan, and the wicket of Boeta Dippenaar falling the next delivery, it rang alarm bells in the South African camp.

At 149 for 4 in the 29th over, skipper Shaun Pollock joined Mark Boucher with a view to bat out of their skins. It was during Pollock’s this very knock when Kumar Sangakkara infamously sledged the South Africa captain, not letting him forget how the “weight of the country was behind him”.

After a steady partnership of 63 and with South Africa requiring 57 off 46, Pollock was run out, and the screws tightened on the hosts. Then, with 46 needed off 32, Boucher smacked Muralitharan for a six. The D/L par at the end of the over read 229 and the crowd celebrated as if their side had won. Boucher pumped his fists as the ball cleared the fence. The celebrations were certainly premature. They had to get one more than the par score to register a win.

The next delivery, Boucher worked it around the mid-wicket for no runs believing that he had done the job for his side. As the delivery was being bowled, Tony Greig said on air: “If they don’t get back on, they need one more run. They are probably aware of it.” The rain intensified and the umpires called for the covers. In the dressing room, Pollock held his face in disappointment as they walked back. He knew that they were a run short of the required score.

As it rained, Pollock could do nothing but watch his country exiting the World Cup. No further play was possible and the match was a tie under the D/L method. Yet another World Cup ended in disappointment for South Africa. As a result, Pollock was sacked from captaincy and a young Smith was handed the reins.