Klaasen and Stubbs believed they could have pulled off an outrageous win. ©AFP
It's what you do when you think no-one's watching that matters; when all you have is the moment and the decision of what to do in it. You are never more alone than in that instant, even as a crowd of 30,351 roars all around you.
Heinrich Klaasen was in that strange and consequential place on Thursday night. He had, seconds earlier, sent a leading edge off Shaheen Afridi up, up and up some more into Sydney's damp, dark sky. Mohammad Wasim, at short third, waited an age for gravity to impose its rule on the ball, and when it did he made a challenging catch look simple.
The moment was upon Klaasen, who knew that his involvement in his first match of this year's T20 World Cup had ended. As he trudged towards the boundary and the dugout beyond that, and the gloom of the bus ride back to the hotel, and the bleak silence of his room, he let loose the kind of scream not meant for public places. It tore through the beautiful noise being made by the crowd, most of them Pakistan supporters, and into the night. As Klaasen was facing vaguely westward, it was only fair to wonder whether his raw emotion was heard all the way back in his hometown of Pretoria.
As he walked Klaasen hammered his bat against his pads with fearsome force. At the other end of the pitch, Tristan Stubbs laid into himself in the same way. But from him there was no screaming: he still had work to do, a goal to reach. Even so, the mutual unhappiness was palpable.
Klaasen is 31 and 68 matches, across the formats, into an international career that didn't start until he was almost 27. At 22 Stubbs has already played 13 T20Is. For two players almost 10 years apart in age and vastly different in approach to be able to share a vision so tightly told its own story.
Yes, that's how teams work. But South Africa's task on Thursday had morphed into something no team had done by the time Klaasen and Stubbs knew the final equation. The South Africans were 15 runs behind the Duckworth/Lewis par score when rain interrupted play after Klaasen and Stubbs had faced nine balls together. When the match resumed after almost an hour's interruption, South Africa's target had been revised - they needed 73 from five overs; a required runrate of 14.6.
No team have yet successfully scored at a quicker rate in a T20I than the 13.9 achieved by Afghanistan and the Czech Republic against Ireland and Turkey in February and August 2019, and both of those feats came in the first innings. Or without the pressure of having to chase down victory.
But the way Klaasen and Stubbs ripped into Shadab Khan in the first of those last overs said they considered the contest alive and kicking. Fourteen were added, six when Stubbs launched the second ball over cover, and four when Klaasen reverse swept the last delivery. Hard running took the tally for the over to 14. That was only 0.60 lower than what it needed to be to keep pace with the steep asking rate, but of course that meant the magic number went up - to 14.75.
Even so, the South Africans kept tilting at windmills with Klaasen whipping Shaheen Afridi through midwicket and mid-off for fours, taking the total for the first five balls of the over to 11. But that's where the drama ended because Afridi's next delivery earned Klaasen's wicket. Cue the histrionics above, which were followed by a crash of four wickets in 13 deliveries.
Clearly, Klaasen and Stubbs believed they could pull off what would have been an outrageous win. Their reactions on being awoken from that ambitious dream weren't those of the shellshocked. Strikingly, they seemed not defeated but disappointed - in themselves.
And that, mind, in a match South Africa did not need to win. Anything except a loss in their last group game, against the Netherlands in Adelaide on Sunday, will put them in the semi-finals. It would take a major derailment of the way they have played for most of the tournament, beyond even what happened on Thursday, to deny them a place in the knockout rounds. But still they played as if everything was on the line.
Temba Bavuma admitted afterwards that the "wheels probably came off". That happened with the ball and in the field, and up top where the thinking gets done, before the batting was afflicted. "Conditions changed [and] in terms of our awareness, in terms of adapting to that, we were very slow," Bavuma said. "We allowed them to get momentum into their innings, and they were able to get a formidable score on the board."
Indeed, a total of 185/9 hadn't seemed likely when Pakistan crashed to 95/5 in 13 overs. Then, when the South Africans decided the heart of the game was still beating, it wasn't. But the desperation they showed in trying to resuscitate it spoke of a team on a mission to keep trying to do the right thing. Even, or especially, when they think no-one is watching.