They say that both winning and losing are habits and South Africa and India would both testify to that theory after their Super Eight encounter at Trent Bridge. Both teams went into the fixture knowing that it was effectively a dead rubber, as South Africa were already through to the semi-finals, while defending champions India, who lost their other two Super Eight matches to the West Indies and England, knew that they were already eliminated from the tournament.
South Africa have been widely tipped to go all the way and win this year's competition and today's performance against a fired up Indian side will only enhance that view. Graeme Smith's men were restricted to just 130 and India needed 131 for victory, furthermore had India chased the runs down in 15.4 overs or faster, which seemed quite feasable then the West Indies would have topped the group at South Africa's expense and while South Africa would have still progressed to the semis, their aura of invincibility might have been slightly diminished.
South Africa did not let this happen restricting India to just 118 to seal an 12-run victory. It was the second time South Africa have defended a low total in this tournament, having defeated New Zealand by one run at Lords last week, despite only posting 128.
Graeme Smith was understandably delighted with his team’s performance and he said that on that pitch he believed 130 gave his side a fighting chance.
"I thought it was a pretty good total," he said. "I thought 140 was going to be a great total on there, the wicket wasn’t a great wicket today and the way we defended that total was excellent."
Smith also paid tribute to South Africa's slow bowlers who were instrumental in restricting India's powerful batting line-up during the middle overs of their innings.
"I think that they have had a really good tournament so far and today it was their job. The wicket was playing that way and we needed them to take responsibility and bowl well and they did. It was a great effort from them and they were well supported in the field."
Looking ahead to the semi-finals, Smith said his team are excited about the prospect of being in the last four of the competition.
"We are excited about it," he said. "It is obviously a great moment for us, we have really enjoyed our cricket since we have been here, we have faced many different challenges throughout, we have played pretty much at every ground and adapted to every surface. So we are excited about the opportunity to play Pakistan on Thursday. It's going to be a great day and another wonderful opportunity for us to come out and play our best cricket."
India's captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was philosophical when reflecting on what has been a poor tournament for a team that were seen as serious contenders for the title.
"It wasn’t so much about the conditions," he conceded. "Unfortunately a lot of our players were not in any kind of form and that includes me and when that happens it is very difficult to win T20 games at this level."
Had South Africa lost this match heavily, questions might well have been asked as to whether South Africa were once again showing signs of frailties towards the business end of a major tournament but the fact that they put in such a resilient performance against the defending champions will only strengthen their belief that this is going to finally be their year.
© Cricket World 2009