Southampton — Faf du Plessis stood slouched against the doorframe on SA’s balcony after lunch at the Rose Bowl on Monday like a waiter on a smoke break.
He aimed his gaze into the dressingroom. Behind him groundstaff were busily dealing with the water that had pooled on the covers, put there by more than two hours of steady drizzle.
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Perhaps he did not want to countenance the possibility of having to go out there again.
At least none of the five balls he had faced from the bristling Sheldon Cottrell and the two from Oshane Thomas had hit him on his already sore right index finger.
SA’s captain had been smacked on his hand, elbow or shoulder thrice in the preceding five days: once by India’s Hardik Pandya last Wednesday, and twice more by Beuran Hendricks on Sunday — during a fielding drill and while batting in the nets.
Into the bargain, and also on Sunday, he had copped a football in the nuts. Du Plessis did not have to go out there again.
Neither did Quinton de Kock, who looked the best of the four batters the Proteas sent into the fray on Monday and was on 17 not out.
More than five hours after play was interrupted with SA on 29/2 after 45 deliveries, the game was abandoned. Not before time, then, SA have a point on the log.
But the window for them to reach the semifinals has shrunk to about the size of those in a doll’s house.
They have five games remaining, and even if they win all of them they will still have to depend on the results of other matches going their way.
They are in the zombie zone of the tournament, not quite dead but far from alive. And it could get worse. You would have to make the Proteas favourites to beat Afghanistan in Cardiff on Saturday — but rain has been forecast.
As Du Plessis said, "The horse is out of the shed."
For the first time in SA’s four matches in the tournament, Du Plessis lost the toss.
Jason Holder jumped at the chance to unleash his pace attack, and in his second over Cottrell induced a panicky flap from Hashim Amla that flew to slip.
Four overs later Cottrell lost control of a delivery to Aiden Markram, who followed it down the leg side anyway and was caught behind. De Kock was unsettled by another ball from Cottrell that reared up and took the splice and fell safely to earth.
He also successfully referred his dismissal for caught behind off Kemar Roach’s first delivery of the match, which replays showed had struck his arm.
De Kock looked up for the challenge, and doubtless there will be several more to come.
The West Indies are back in Southampton on Friday to play England and skipper Jason Holder hopes all-rounder Andre Russell will be fit to face the hosts after missing Monday’s game with a knee injury.