In our Alternative Universe series, our writers let their imagination change the game. This time, our South African correspondent asks you to let her dream
Dale Steyn is bowling the final over of the 2015 World Cup semi-final. New Zealand need 12 to win. Daniel Vettori and Grant Elliott manage three off the first three balls and Steyn needs a physio on the field to examine his hamstring niggle. He gets back up and bowls a yorker fourth ball, but Vettori squeezes it out to third man for four. Steyn follows with a bouncer. Vettori misses, but the batsmen scramble a single while South Africa miss breaking the stumps at both ends. Five needed off two balls.
With all nine fielders sent back to the boundary, Steyn steams in, nails his yorker and takes out Elliott's off stump. In strides Matt Henry, his ODI career just eight matches old, about to face the most important ball in New Zealand's World Cup history. Faf du Plessis walks past him and mutters something, just like Kyle Mills did to him eight years ago in Dhaka. Henry frowns briefly before setting his eyes on Steyn.
Steyn's vein is twitching rather than throbbing, which suggests he means serious business. He stalks up to the crease where he delivers… a lollipop.
What happened next
Good length outside off. Henry gets under it but fails to middle it. The ball swirls towards deep extra cover, where Vernon Philander, also carrying a hamstring injury, can only lob the ball back infield, and Imran Tahir leaps forward, arms out, eyes closed. He opens his eyes to Steyn chainsaw-celebrating, du Plessis and de Villiers chest-bumping each other, and Hashim Amla offering his hand to pick a distraught Henry off the pitch.
The injured Philander is replaced by Kyle Abbott, their best bowler of the tournament, for the final. The night before the big match, Ali Bacher, Graeme Smith and Makhaya Ntini talk to the team: "You are not representing yourself today. You are fighting for things that are happening in South Africa, for the kids who did not get the opportunities you did. If you play badly, you don't have the right to drop your heads. It's not about you. Go back and do better."*
Hashim Amla and JP Duminy take South Africa to a score above 300. Though Australia's line-up is strong, Steyn, Abbott, Morkel and Tahir are all over them and a new team is crowned world champion.
In the aftermath, South Africa coach Russell Domingo gets the coaching job at the Royal Challengers Bangalore, ahead of Vettori, and de Villiers replaces Virat Kohli as their captain. Neil Wagner heads back to Pretoria and rejoins the Titans as he looks to step into Steyn's and Morkel's shoes post-retirement, while in Australia, an unknown grade cricketer named Marnus Labuschagne moves back to South Africa and starts to work his way up the domestic run charts, so that when de Villiers retires three years later, South Africa have a ready replacement.
*With thanks to World Cup-winning Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus, whose pre-match speech inspired this message
For more such flights of fancy, click here.