On most days of his career, you could count on Herschelle Gibbs to deliver some exceptional fielding performance but June 13, 1999, was not that day. It was on this day that Gibbs dropped Steve Waugh’s catch in a super six clash between Australia and South Africa. The catch later cost them a chance of World Cup victory. The Australians needed a desperate victory to topple Zimbabwe and secure their position in the semifinals of the tournament. While the Proteas were already through to the semis.
South Africa captain Hansie Cronje won the toss and elected to bat first at Headingly, Leeds. Thanks to the brilliant 101 innings by Gibbs, the team put a total of 271/7 in their allotted 50 over. The score looked pretty good especially with defence of the South African pace battery with bowlers like Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Steve Elworthy and Lance Klusener.
The Australians did not have a great start either, facing a top-order collapse they were suddenly 48/3 in the 12th over. In came captain Steve Waugh joining Ricky Ponting on the crease, the duo started stitching a partnership together and slowly brought the run chase back on track.
With an aggressive play from their captain, Australia were now 149 for 3 at the end of 30th over and looking at their victory.
With a place already secured in the semis, this game was not a do or die situation for the Proteas and maybe that’s what caused complicity as the match started tilting towards Waugh’s men.
The match was now approaching a moment which turned into one of the most important moments of the 1999 World Cup.
In the 31st over of the chase, Klusener delivered a length ball on Waugh’s pads and he tried flicking it towards the mid-wicket region. The ball went straight into Gibbs’s hands and he almost caught it before his premature celebration caused a drop that would later cost the South African’s the match.
“How does it feel to drop the World Cup, Herschelle?" Waugh had famously asked Gibbs after the dropped catch. Waugh later denied making that statement.
Waugh not only survived but went on to register a century. His unbeaten innings of 120 with assistance from Ponting’s 68 took the Australian team to victory.
It was a victory that was taken into consideration 4 days later after the semifinal match between these sides ended in a tie. Australia went to the finals and later winning their second of the many World Cup victories that followed in years to come.