DATE : 17-06-1999
VENUE : Edgbaston, Birmingham, England
Writer : Karthik Narayan
Cricketfundas.com pursuits to pen down its exclusive coverage of the Tied ODIs and Tests and it’s incomplete without the presence of a World Cup match. For the simple reason that Cricket World Cups are special occasions. That void was filled in the 7th world cup played in England in 1999.
After a gap of 16 years, England hosted the World Cup again. This was a Cup with new formats such as the birth of the Super Six Stage and the teams were more evenly grouped and matched. It all promised great fan fare and good cricket all around.
The match we shall relive today shall be the best ever World Cup match for many years to come. Those who witnessed this match were verily blessed with a cricketing fairy tale of mighty goodness.
This was the most important and most interesting match – since both teams were world beaters and both had performed exceptionally thus far, it was winner TAKE ALL! And also the result of the previous match between the same teams in the super six stage was a staggering match which went down to the wire. And it was Steve Waugh’s brilliance that had taken Australia to this stage.
Adam Gilchrist (Wicket Keeper), Mark Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Darren Lehmann, Steve Waugh (Captain), Michael Bevan, Tom Moody, Shane Warne, Paul Reiffel, Damien Fleming, Glenn McGrath.
Gary Kirsten, Herschelle Gibbs, Daryll Cullinan, Hansie Cronje, Jacques Kallis, Jonty Rhodes, Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusener, Mark Boucher (Wicket Keeper), Steve Elworthy, Allan Donald.
South Africa won the toss and elected to field first in this all-important game.
Australia did not get off to their flying starts that we had seen over the course of many a ODI – Pollock pouched Mark Waugh for a catch to Keeper Boucher in the 5th ball of the match for a blob! It was a beauty of a delivery, with pace and bounce and just kissing the face of the gloves, and Australia were one down for 3. Gilchrist was joined by Ricky Ponting, and the two set upon their task in an arduous manner. Pollock extracted pace and bounce and bowled beautifully with Kallis who was getting considerable sideways movement off the pitch. With veteran Allan Donald into the attack as second change, things remarkably changed – Donald picked up two quick and important wickets of Ponting and Lehmann in quick succession. Australia was reeling at 68/4 in the 17th over when Gilchrist was out to Kallis.
But Steve Waugh with a robust 56 off 76 and Bevan with a rather sedate 65 off 101 were just pulling back things when Waugh was caught behind off yet another great Pollock ball. Pollock and Donald, the deadly pair was at their deadliest in this match.
Together, they quickly wiped off the middle and tail of Australia and the super team was all out for just 213 in the last over. Pollock bowled a dream spell 9.2-1-36-5 and Donald chipped in with hostile bowling figures of 10-1-32-4. if Donald hadn’t messed up his batting and running between wickets, surely he deserved a lot more accolades for his bowling. His great bowling was submerged in foolhardy running at the end.
South African Innings:
So the target was set at 214 for South Africa. Considering normal circumstances, this would have been an easy task. But this being DO or DIE for both teams and with the World Cup at stake, the game was never over until it was won.
Things were not going Australia’s way until Warne came on as second change in the 11th over. Warne bowled what is being described as one of the best ever spells by any bowler in ODI cricket, especially world cups.
Warne clipped Gibbs’ off stump with a magnificent ball, pitching outside the rough and opening up the batsman. Gibbs took a while to realize he had been out. One has to watch Warne in this match to see him at his best. In walked Warne’s bunny Daryl Cullinan, and Warne smacked his lips. Cullinan absolutely had no clue whatsoever to Warne’s magic, and he succumbed as usual. A measly 6 runs came off 30 balls; Warne picked up Kirsten similar ball, and similar result. OUT! Warne was just too good at this stage. Hansie Cronje lasted all of 2 balls of Warne, the second was edged to first slip, Mark Waugh ever ready to pouch yet another great catch. 3 wickets in 8 balls meant that Warne was all worked up! Cullinan and Kallis struggled to make runs, and it seemed Cullinan would not get out to Warne. And he didn’t. A crazy mix up saw Cullinan take a dangerous single, and that too testing the arm of the best Australian fielder – Michael Bevan. And Bevan has had enough throw practice to hit the stumps with precision. South Africa were 61/4 in the 22nd over.
Rhodes and Kallis steadied the ship with an 84 run partnership, but then Rhodes tried a shot too many. A slog against Reiffel, and the ball rose in height but did not cover the distance beyond Bevan, taking a running catch at deep square leg.
Pollock followed his good bowling with a cameo batting performance – a quick 20 off 14 balls came. A partnership of 30 between Kallis and Pollock drew South Africa closest to their chances of reaching first ever Cricket World Cup final. But Warne that Magic Crusader spun yet another astounding ball, Kallis did not read it, Waugh gleefully took the lob at cover. The greatest spell in this World Cup ended, much to the delight of the Proteas. But it had done the damage.
Now the stage was set for a tight finish to this amazing match of more see saws than a children’s playground. Exactly six balls after the dismissal of Kallis, Fleming castled Pollock, thus finishing his little cameo. But with Zulu Klusener, this match was all but over. The score was 184/7 in 46 overs.
All boiled to 38 off the last Four overs. McGrath-Fleming-McGrath and final over by Fleming. Boucher, being rather new to pressure, managed to do his part of playing the singles. McGrath knew best to bowl at these stages. Klusener and Boucher managed to make 5 runs off that 47th over.
Fleming was in charge for the first three balls of the 48th over – all being great Yorkers well dug out by Boucher. Somehow Boucher managed a single off the 4th ball, and the ball was in Klusener’s court to hit. People strive in pressure and Zulu loves it! It seems he was born with so much pressure that he keeps such a cool head and bats as easily as sleeping with a soft pillow on a featherbed. Six runs came off the last 2 balls with 2 clean strikes.
Boucher had his bitter taste of a deadly McGrath delivery, his short batting digging out was all over – a Yorker knocked out the middle stump and it was now time for Boucher to loosen his gloves. Score – 196/8.
Steve Elworthy came in with battered bowling figures and little batting experiences. And he could not last no more than 1 ball. A risky single became a horror when McGrath ambled down to deflect the stumps off a Reiffel throw to get rid of Elworthy. Things were real hot and more sweat was seen now on everyone’s brow.
198/9 and Donald walked in with a nervous grin and butterflies in his stomach. Luckily he did not have to face McGrath. Klusener struck the next ball of McGrath with great power and believe me, at Long on, Reiffel could not hold on to what would have been a good catch – the ball lobbed on to dribble over the fence – SIX valuable runs. Off the last ball, Zulu took a single to take strike for the last over.
9 off 6 balls – the team that would keep its cool would win. With Klusener in the middle and on strike, Australia was looking down and out. Fleming began his run up for the last 6 balls of the match. The field moved in, anxiously, everyone in the stadium and those watching were on the edge of their seats and hearts.
The first ball was a backfoot drive an amazing astounding strike hit with the speed of a bullet, and it raced cutting across everyone on the field. Nobody, and I mean nobody could have ever stopped that from crossing the boundary.
The next ball was fuller, and Klusener had answers ready for that ball. It was dispatched with the rage and power of a bull at its maddest – it streaked through Mark Waugh at long off and hit the fence. The scores were TIED.
With the match ending in a tie, (according to new rules for this World Cup) Australia would go to the final by virtue of their win over the same team in the Super Six stage.
Now things were simpler than ever – 1 run off 4 balls. All 11 Aussies were inside the 30-yard circle. Singles were not going to be allowed. The third ball was pulled by Klusener – mishit and rolled straight down the wicket – what was Allan Donald doing? Backing up too far, he nearly got himself run out. If that throw by Lehmann was good enough, Donald would have been run out by miles. That instant Donald would have seen his heart in his mouth.
Pressure breeds real warriors to show their gut, it also shows the real cowards and those who take it to their heads and hearts. HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR THE NEXT BALL. A mishit pull again – and the most foolhardy single was taken by Klusener. He who had planned and executed this match so very well thus far lost his mind for that single. Donald was in no position to take that single having seen his heart pop the previous ball. He dropped his bat, lost his mind and started late for a single that was never to be.
While Zulu managed to ground his bat at the non-striker’s end, Donald had no words for this situation – absolutely no words for the sensational finish. Gilchrist knocked over the bails easily, Donald could not face the world.
A heart attack struck all South Africans in the stadium and an eruption of glee on the faces of all the Aussies- they had reached the finals. And this match had been tied from the open jaws of a Dinosaur, saved just before it shut its jaws. The Aussies had made a remarkable comeback thanks to Warne.
All sorts of adjectives sprung up at this stage – Hansie Cronje had his hands on hips looking dourer than Mr.Grouchy or Mr.Grinch. The South Africans had 2 balls to spare and just a single separated them from a win and a place in the Final.
Jaws dropped and eyes pooped to watch the end overs – and they had a great treat by all means. The heat was turned on and the hearts were pumping like mad.
As my heart slows down and I catch my breath, I conclude that this was perhaps the best ever ODI match that I have witnessed in my entire life. So be it for so many other players and lovers of the game of cricket.
This day was definitely that of the bowlers and the batsmen had little say in the matters. While Pollock and Donald routed Australia, Warne rocked the whole world with his magic, and it was vintage Warne to pick up the man of the match award.
It was very ironical that South Africa was very much in the same situation in the next World Cup as well, and that also they tied and lost their place to play further. Some lessons to be learnt for them, maybe?