Cricket World Cup 1999: South Africa vs Australia, Best Match
For all the kids born in early 90s, 1999 Cricket world cup is the first taste they got of the World cups. Some might have seen the 96′ Cricket World Cup but the memories would be too blurred. 99 World cup in England was a great spectacle for everyone to behold. Add to it some of the thrilling encounters it produced. Cricket World Cup winners list goes on and on. Today we re-visit one of the best encounters the world has seen till date. It can be called as one of the greatest matches of World Cup. It is the semi- finals of the 99 World Cup. Australia vs South Africa.
Before talking about the game let us see how this game clash was set up. Australia had to win 3 out of 3 in the super six stage to have any chance of qualifying for the semis. They won couple of games and then they were up against a rampaging South African side who were going great guns. South Africa decided to bat first and scored 272 which was an uphill task during those days when even 235-240 was a match winning score. Gibbs scored a brilliant ton, but little did he know that he would not be remembered for that knock. He dropped Steve Waugh later in the game which cost them the game. Steve Waugh went on to score 120. After the dropped catch it is rumoured that Waugh told Gibbs he has dropped the World Cup 1999 and indeed he did.
The Game Between SA & Australia begins!
4 days later both the teams met in a semi-final at Edgbaston. South Africans were bowling this time. Mark Waugh’s wicket proved there was enough for the seamers in the pitch. In walked Punter who along with Gilchrist led to a counter attack but Donald had other ideas. He took couple of wickets in quick succession to jolt the Australians back. The man with the golden arm Jacques Kallis removed Gilchrist soon and Australians were tottering at 68-4.
Crisis man walks in
In came the crisis man during those days, someone whom you could bet your life on to save an ODI game. The best finisher world has ever seen Michael Bevan. He went on about his business in his own merry ways and stitched a wonderful partnership with Steve Waugh. It took a brilliant spell from Pollock to get rid of Waugh and then Australians fell like 9 pins. Donald rapped up the tail restricting Australians to 213.
214 on that wicket was not that difficult considering the form South African players were in. Gibbs and Kirsten started off well and looked set to chase down the target. South Africans were on course to play their first world cup final. The writing was almost on the wall.
Warne weaves his magic
The king of spin was then introduced into the attack to stop a rampaging opening pair. 2nd ball of his spell that he bowled will be etched out in the memories forever. He castled the dangerous Gibbs. Ball spun from the rough outside the leg stump and took out Gibbs’ off timber. Couple of overs later he got Kirsten to drive and knock him over. Cronje went for a duck too. Warne had weaved his magic on the South Africans. Daryl Cullinan’s struggling innings was cut short by Michael Bevan’s brilliant throw. They were 61-4 now with top 4 back in the hut.
Road to Redemption
Kallis and Rhodes then stitched a wonderful partnership to keep South Africans in the game. Game seemed to have getting away from Australians with each run these two scored. The 84 run stand between those 2 made sure South Africans have a foot in the door to play the final against Pakistan of Cricket World Cup 1999.
Climax for the ages
Paul Reiffel accounted for Jonty Rhodes and then the magician came back to send Kallis back in the pavilion. Pollock came and smashed Warne for 4 and a 6. Klusener the man of the tournament who was having a dream run was in no mood to let this go and continued his onslaught even when the wickets were falling from the other end. Fleming sent Pollock packing and then Mcgrath uprooted Boucher’s middle poll in the penultimate over.
Klusener looked unperturbed at the other end. South Africans were 9 down and 16 were required off 9 deliveries, Klusener hit it perfectly to the man at long on who palmed it over for 6. With 10 required off 7 he managed to pick up a single and retain the strike. South Africans were just 9 runs away and Australians needed a wicket to reach the finals. Fleming was dispatched with disdain through covers for 4s in succession by Klusener.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
Now they needed 1 off 4. Klusener mistimed a dive to mid on where Donald was almost run out to a Darren Lehmann throw. The 4th ball of the over Klusener punched it to mid off and took off. Donald was ball watching. Mark Waugh threw it to Fleming who then under armed it to Gilchrist and Donald was stranded. Klusener couldn’t believe what had happened and went straight off walking. Australians were through to the finals despite a tie courtesy of beating South Africans in the previous fixture. This also makes Cricket World Cup 1999 as one of the best world Cup in the game.
The game is still remembered by many. Not only the South Africans but the neutrals were in tears too. It was so near yet so far for the Africans. This was their biggest chance to win a world cup. They could have added their name to the Cricket World Cup Winners list. Who knows this might be the only time they could have won the World Cup!!!
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