Kieron Pollard’s wicket proved to be the difference as South Africa sneaked into the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy on a better net run rate after their rain-hit Group B match against the West Indies ended in a tie under the Duckworth/Lewis method.
Chasing an imposing 231-run target in 31 overs in the rain-curtailed match, West Indies were 190 for six in 26.1 overs when the heavens opened up once again to bring an early end to the decisive game at Sophia Gardens last night.
Had Pollard not got out after scoring a 23-ball 28, the par score for the West Indies would have been 187 for five under the D/L method.
But the hard-hitting batsman was dismissed by Ryan McLaren just before the rain intervened, dashing West Indies hopes of earning a semi-final berth.
West Indies needed 41 runs off 4.5 overs when play was called off. But under the D/L method, the Caribbeans needed to score 193 for six to pip South Africa on net run rate.
Darren Sammy and skipper Dwayne Bravo were left stranded at the crease as the on-field umpires decided to call off the match after brief discussion.
Both South Africa and West Indies ended their league engagements with three points from as many matches but the Proteas advanced to the knockout stage by virtue of a better net run-rate.
India is the other team to have already qualified for the semi-finals from Group B.
West Indies lost opener Johnson Charles (16) early into their run chase as he was caught by wicketkeeper AB de Villiers off Dale Steyn.
Chris Morris got the prized wicket of danger-man Chris Gayle in the 12th over just when the Jamaican was looking dangerous. Gayle scored a 27-ball 36 with the help of five fours and a straight six.
West Indies slipped further when they lost the important wicket of Devon Smith (30), trapped leg before by left-arm spinner Robin Peterson, just before the rain halted the proceedings for a brief period in the 15th over.
Darren Bravo was then run out for 12 after a horrible mix-up with Marlon Samuels as West Indies slumped to 104 for four in 18 overs.
West Indies were in dire need of a partnership and it seemed that the experienced pair of Samuels and Pollard were just the right players for the job.
Samuels displayed audacious stroke play and punished the South African bowlers with an eye on D/L par score in case the unpredictable English weather plays spoilsport.
Samuels played some fantastic cricketing shots all around the park to bring his team back into contention. He hit six fours and two sixes in his 52-ball 48 before Dale Steyn uprooted his middle stump.
Pollard tried his best to get West Indies over the line but his wicket proved crucial just before the rain.
Earlier, opener Colin Ingram struck a fluent 73 while David Miller played an unbeaten cameo of 38 to help South Africa post a formidable 230 for six.
South Africa's fifth-wicket pair of Miller and Faf du Plessis (32-ball 35) put on display some sensational strokeplay at the business end of the innings and added 68 runs in just 48 deliveries to put their side in the driver's seat.
From 153 for four in the 23rd over, Miller and Du Plesis took their side to 221 for five as the last five overs yielded 52 runs for the Proteas.
Miller's unbeaten knock of 38 was laced with three huge sixes and a four while Du Plessis decorated his useful innings with three fours and a six.
Ingram scored his 73 off 63 balls and struck six fours and two sixes, while skipper De Villiers hit a 25-ball 37 after South Africa were invited to bat first in overcast conditions.
The match started three hours and 15 minutes late than the scheduled time due to inclement weather.
South Africa made a confident start as the opening duo of Ingram and Hashim Amla (23) added 80 runs for the first wicket in 12.1 overs. Ingram was the more aggressive of the two as he mixed caution with aggression to pace his innings, while Amla was content to play the second fiddle.
With the pair of Ingram and Amla looking threatening, Bravo introduced Samuels into the attack and the move paid dividends immediately. Samuels got the prized-wicket of Amla, who went for an expensive drive but was caught on rebound by Gayle at extra-cover.
West Indies tried to pull things back with two quick strikes as Ingram and Duminy (2) departed in quick succession. Ingram was caught by Bravo off Pollard at deep midwicket, while Duminy ended up gloving a delivery to wicketkeeper Charles off Bravo.
De Villiers departed after taking his side past 150-run mark when Bravo pulled off a stunner at midwicket off Ravi Rampaul.
Miller and Du Plessis then combined well and punished the West Indian bowlers with some powerful hitting.
South Africa: AB de Villiers (c), Hashim Amla, Colin Ingram, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller, Ryan McLaren, Robin Peterson, Chris Morris, Dale Steyn and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
West Indies: Dwayne Bravo (c), Chris Gayle, James Charles, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Devon Smith, Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy, Sunil Narine, Tino Best and Ravi Rampaul.