There have been some very close encounters in the history of One-Day Internationals but none better than the ICC World Cup 1999 semi-final between Australia and South Africa. On this day, 19 years ago, the two giants of modern-day cricket played out one of the most memorable matches in the history of the sport.
Batting first in this winner-takes-all clash in Birmingham, Australia were restricted by the Proteas for just 213 in 49.2 overs. Shaun Pollock was the pick of the bowlers for South Africa, as he ended with outstanding figures of 5/36. Meanwhile, Allan Donald too had an outstanding game with the ball as he scalped 4 wickets for just 32 runs in 10 overs.
As for Australia, their batsmen fell like nine pins and as many as five batsmen were dismissed for a duck. The only saving grace for the Aussies was the 90-run partnership between Steve Waugh (56) and Michael Bevan (65), which played more than a crucial role in them reaching the score that they eventually did.
Chasing the modest target, the Proteas got off to a flying start in the match, with openers Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten coming to the fore. However, the situation of the match changed drastically, when Shane Warne (4/29) was introduced into the attack as he ripped through the top-order.
Jacques Kallis (53) and Jhonty Rhodes (43) took South Africa closer to the target but the two too departed in quick succession. Lance Klusener then issued a stunning fightback to leave the Aussie bowlers reeling.
The Proteas needed 9 runs from the last over, while Australia needed one wicket to seal a place in the final of the competition. Klusenar slammed back-to-back boundaries off the bowling of Damien Fleming and that meant South Africa needed just a solitary run from the last three deliveries.
However, a 'brain fade' moment from Donald saw him not go for a run while Klunenar was almost inside the crease at the non-striker's end after hitting the ball towards mid-off. Adam Gilchrist took off the bails as Donald dropped his bat and also the World Cup in the process. The match was tied and Australia went through into the final as they had finished higher in the Super Six table.
“I was upset with myself that maybe I could have been a bit more patient. But, I guess hindsight is a brilliant science. You can always say ‘what if we’d waited’ or whatever, but those last two balls could have been brilliant yorkers and we could be sitting saying why didn’t we take our opportunity early on,” Klusenar was quoted as saying by the ICC.
“I was a little bit cross with myself that I hadn’t been as patient in trying to get that one more run, but that’s the beauty of the game. I’m always one for taking that opportunity when it’s there. I thought that was the right opportunity, it didn’t turn out to be,” he added.