Cricket World Cup Unforgettables – Australia vs. South Africa 1999
Cricket World Cup Unforgettables – Australia v South Africa, 1999 This has to be the greatest match ever played in a world cup. The two teams resumed their intense fight against each other from just 5 days earlier when they had played a close encounter in the Super Six stage of the tournament. Australia had prevailed that day, beating the South Africans with just two balls to spare, helped in no small measure by an unbeaten century from their tenacious captain Steve Waugh. That was also the match in which Gibbs floored Waugh early in their innings and reportedly induced the now famous “You just lost the world cup mate” comment from the Australian captain.
Australia had a shaky start to their world cup campaign and reached the Super Six stage having to win all of their matches to reach the semi-finals. They had lost their opening two group matches to Pakistan and New Zealand. To make matters worse, these two teams were Australia’s qualifying partners in their group. As a result, Australia began the Super Six stage with no points, knowing that nothing short of victory in all remaining matches would see them through to the semi-finals. Australia did just that, and with some flair.
Australia batted first and promptly lost Mark Waugh in the first to Shaun Pollock. Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist formed a 51-run partnership before Ponting departed in the 14th. Australia then lost Darren Lehman’s wicket in the same over. Steve Waugh came in with his team in trouble at 3-for-58. His troubles were further accentuated when Gilchrist came out with the score 68 in the 17-over.
As has been the hallmark of his entire career, Steve Waugh then began a fight from the rear as only he can. It’s impossible to think of any other hitter who would like to be in the middle when his team is in crisis. No other player should have rescued the team from him as much as Steve Waugh has done in cricket history. Here he made an excellent 90-run partnership with Michael Bevan (arguably the greatest ODI player in the history of the game). before Waugh departed with his own personal score of 56.
What followed was a magnificent piece of bowling from South African leaders Donald and Pollock. They collected the remaining Australian wickets one by one with Bevan standing helplessly at the other end. Only Shane Warne provided resistance to the dome token by putting in 49 runs with Bevan. Bevan was the last man out for 65 and Australia were bowled out for 213 with 4 balls to spare. Pollock and Donald ended up with figures of 5/36 and 4/32 respectively.
The South African entries started steadily. The starting pairing of Gibbs and Kirsten made a solid 48 in 12.2 overs. Then the magician Shane Warne entered the scene. The ‘Wizard of Oz’ gave such a brilliant display of spin bowling that at the time it seemed impossible that South Africa would ever recover from its effects. Warne taunted and cheated 3 quick South African wickets, including a controversial one from Hansie Cronje. Cronje was sent off when replays clearly showed the ball had left his boot. The South African cause was not helped by the departure of Daryl Cullinan and South Africa was left reeling to 61 for 4.
As with previous Australian entries, South Africa also went through a period of consolidation through a courageous partnership between Rhodes and Kallis. They brought the score to 145 as Rhodes departed trying to pick up the pace. But Kallis and Pollock continued to advance on the scoreboard before Shane Warne returned to make one last impact on the game. He took out Kallis and gave up very few runs in slog overs. In the end, his numbers read 10-4-29-4.
However, the match was not over yet. Klusener came out and started throwing the ball all over the park like he had done throughout the tournament. He would later be voted the tournament’s most valuable player. Klusener would have taken the game away from Australia if he had had some support from the other end. Unfortunately, South Africa continued to lose ground before finding themselves with just Allan Donald and Klusener to face the final over of the match.
This was one of the most amazing final overs in the history of the game. South Africa needed 9 runs from the last 6 balls with Klusener in strike and Fleming was the bowler. The first two balls were pummeled out of bounds and South Africa looked safe to go home. But cricket is played as much in the mind as it is on the field. Steve Waugh applied more pressure to an already pressure cooker atmosphere by bringing in the field.
Fleming bowled the next ball and Donald, South Africa’s most experienced player, fell back too far on Klusener’s push at half and only Darren Lehmann’s underarm shot to the stumps saved him as he fell back. This also seemed to have fused Klusener’s thought process. On the next ball, Klusener pushed the ball up the middle and went on a risky run. Why he did it when he still had two balls left to face is still a mystery. He went for a run anyway, and in the ensuing chaos, Allen Donald didn’t hear his teammate’s call for the single. Therefore, he left late for the race. Mark Waugh picked up the ball and tossed it to Fleming. Meanwhile, Donald was desperately trying to gain ground without his bat, which he had lost in the confusion. Fleming picked up Waugh’s shot and rolled it down the field towards Gilchrist, who easily got past Donald. Australia erupted in spontaneous celebration and the pain etched on Klusener’s face was heartbreaking. The match was a tie!!!
Australia reached the final as they had beaten South Africa in the league stage and the tournament rules specified that in the event of a tie, a previous result had to be taken into account.