Australia vs South Africa 1999, WC Semis

It was the clash between two titans of that tournament- South Africa and Australia. They were one of the best teams in the tournament and hence this 1999 WC Semis match was expected to be mouth-watering and exciting, and boy, did it deliver! Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seat belts to witness this amazing contest: –

  • Build-up

The setting was perfect for this clash. It was in Edgbaston, which was probably the most intense crowd at that time. The stadium was packed and the tickets were sold out. A huge crowd was gathered to see the 1999 WC Semis match. Though Australia had beaten South Africa in the league, still the South Africans were equally as good as the Aussies. Both of them had lost two matches in the Super 6 but the only thing giving Australia the edge was their net run rate. Let’s go on to see how things panned out in that match.

  • The ‘immortal’ clash

South Africa had won the toss and chose to field first. South Africa’s deadly pace duo, Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald started the opening spell.

Gilly pushed a ball for a triple to get off the mark. Mark Waugh was on the receiving end for an incredible four balls by Pollock. The first was a ripping inswinger that smashed his pads and Pollock appealed for it but unfortunately umpire David Shepherd refused his appeal. The fourth one looked like a bouncer and Mark Waugh tried to leave it but the ball managed to get a feather of his bat and he was out for a duck.

In walked a confident Ricky Ponting who joined Gilly out in the middle. The two looked in good touch in the challenging conditions and they stitched up a fifty-run partnership. Ponting particularly was dominant and had scored 37 runs off 47 balls which included 3 fours and a six, but then Ponting went for a cover drive off Donald and the ball ended up in the safe hands of Gary Kirsten. South Africa drew the second blood thanks to Allan Donald.

In walked Darren Lehmann who joined Gilly, but he too got out to Allan Donald for just 1 run. After Lehmann got out to Donald, Gilly too didn’t last long as Donald took his wicket. The score read 68/4 when the ever reliant Michael Bevan and Steve Waugh joined forces. They were the only hope for Australia to post a competitive target. They had to excel in the testing conditions of Edgbaston. The crowd was roaring and so were the Proteas pacers.

These two stitched a good partnership with each other out in the middle. Steve Waugh was the aggressor in that innings while Bevan was composed. These two players played unbelievably well. Steve Waugh reached a fine half-century in 70 balls and moved to another century against the same team as he did in the league stage. He had played a captain’s knock in an all-important clash.

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But then Shaun Pollock did what he does the best. He took the crucial wicket of Steve Waugh and South Africa was back in the contest. Australia was in deep trouble at 158/5 in the 40th over. 3 balls after Steve Waugh’s wicket, another wicket fell. The Aussies were reduced to 158/6 now. In walked Shane Warne who was a typical slogger at the end of the innings. Nobody thought that he would be coming in the 34th over.

The responsibility to do the much-needed damage control was all on Michael Bevan. Michael Bevan delivered and he had a fantastic knock 65 runs off 101 deliveries.

But the South African pacers were atrociously good, especially Donald and Pollock. They restricted Australia to a mediocre total of 213. Pollock and Donald combined took 9 wickets and ripped apart the Aussies batting lineup. It was an unbelievable spell of bowling from these two.

A total of 213 was pretty easy for the mighty Proteas whose batting lineup consisted of Gibbs, Kirsten, Cronje, Cullinan, Rhodes, and Klusener. They got off to a decent start and in the first 12 overs, the score read 48/0. They had managed to survive in the first 12 overs without losing a wicket. South Africa was well on course of an easy victory.

Steve Waugh now had to go for his trump card, Shane Warne despite having continuous rifts before the World Cup. But despite the rifts, the main thing for the Aussies side was to win the match. Warnie had to replicate what he had done in the 1996 semi-finals against the Windies.

He made an impact in just the second ball of his spell to Herschelle Gibbs by replicating the “Ball of the Century”. He once again turned an illusion of deceiving the batsman through the spin into reality. It was an unforgettable delivery for the fans who had watched that match. Even Gibbs couldn’t believe that he was bowled!

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In the second over of his spell, he bowled a delivery that came back into the other opener Gary Kirsten while Gary attempted to sweep and Kirsten was out. Warnie had removed both the openers in a span of 2 overs. In came the South African captain, Hansie Cronje. Guess what happened next in that over. Warne removed Cronje for a duck using a quicker one which Cronje tried to drive through the covers but ended up giving a catch to Mark Waugh. South Africa was reduced to 53/3 and all 3 wickets went to the “King of Spin” Shane Warne.

Due to the quick fall of wickets, South Africa’s run rate had begun to drop. Cullinan and Kallis played extremely cautiously. They managed to score only 13 runs in nearly 11 overs. Warnie not only took the wickets but he also stopped the flow of runs. Out of desperation, Cullinan got run out and scored a painful knock of 6 runs off 30 balls.

In walked Jonty Rhodes who joined Kallis out in the middle. South Africa could not afford to lose their wicket at this crucial stage and at the same time they had to score runs fast, Could they do it? Let’s see.

Rhodes and Kallis tried to rotate the singles and to get their team to a score of above 140 in the next few overs because they had Klusener and Pollock to slog at the fag end of the innings to get to the total. This was their mindset during the game. They pushed for singles and doubles continuously and whenever required they scored an odd boundary. They displayed a cautious approach to the match situation. And they reached above 140 without losing any wicket. South Africa was now back on track to win the match.

But after the 40th over, Jonty Rhodes got out to Paul Reiffel scoring a brilliant knock of 43 off 55 balls. Kallis was set at the other end and tried to boost the run rate. In walked Shaun Pollock, who was trying to smash the bowlers, and both of them complimented each other brilliantly. At one end Pollock was hitting the bowlers and at the other end, Kallis tried to give him the majority of the strike. In this process, Kallis scored a fine half-century off 90 deliveries.

Shane Warne was brought into the attack for one last time and had to make an impact by removing the well set Kallis. Otherwise, South Africa would cruise towards victory and Australia would be knocked out of the World Cup. In the second last ball of his final over, Warnie delivered and removed the well-set Kallis who scored 53 off 92 balls. The match saw a sudden turn and the ever-reliable, Warne ended up with figures of 10-4-29-4. It was quite a fantastic spell and arguably the best in a World Cup match.

After Warnie’s sensational spell, came Lance Klusener who was playing unbelievably well in that tournament. It was certain that he would be the man of the tournament regardless of the result. He joined Shaun Pollock out in the middle.

Pollock soon got out for 20 off 14 balls and Klusener was accompanied by wicketkeeper Mark Boucher. Klusener was hitting the bowlers unbelievably well for fours while Boucher gave him the strike whenever needed. South Africa was almost cruising to the total and they needed just 18 runs off the next 12 balls.

Ladies and gentlemen, have you tightened your seat belts?

Boucher got out to a stunning Glenn McGrath yorker and Australia still had their chances for a win alive. The score was 196/8 now and with 10 balls remaining South Africa had to score 18 runs. To the elation of the Aussies, Elworthy too got run out, two balls after that trying to hustle for a single, and all of a sudden, the Proteas were at a very fragile situation with 9 wickets down.

The next ball, Klusener smashed the ball high up in the air and all the people thought Klusener was gone but there was a twist in the tale. Paul Reiffel clipped the ball at long on and it went for a six. He had dropped a reasonably simple catch. 12 runs were needed in 7 deliveries.

The next delivery, Klusener hit the ball through midwicket for a single. He was back on strike and was under immense pressure needing 11 runs off the last over. Phew! What a match this is turning out to be!

With 9 runs required off the last over, Damien Fleming was handed the ball for the last over. Did he defend the total? The crowd was literally on their feet when the first ball was bowled.

In the first ball, Klusener smacked it for a four through the covers with much power. 5 runs were needed off 5 balls for the Proteas and the Aussies needed just…just one wicket to win. The next ball was smacked wide of mid-on for another four and the scores were levelled.

1 run off 3 balls

At this point, everyone thought that the Australian campaign for the World Cup was done and dusted. The match was all but in the bag of the Proteas. The field came in to save the single. The only possible way for Australia to progress to the finals was by taking a wicket or keeping the current score as it is to draw the match. It was because Australia had finished higher than South Africa in the Super 6 stage which would push them to the finals.

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Damien Fleming ran in to bowl the 4th ball of the over and Klusener was desperate to finish the match in style as he had done in all the matches…

But suddenly “a brain fade” moment happened. Klusener smashed the ball right to Mark Waugh. Allan Donald didn’t notice the direction of the ball while Klusener had begun to run and even reached Donald’s place, the non-striker end. After realizing that Klusener was on the non-striker end, Donald finally ran towards the striker’s end. It was too late as Mark Waugh threw the ball to Fleming. After realizing that Donald was a yard away from the crease, he rolled the ball to Gilly. Gilly knocked off the stumps in a flash...!!! WHAT JUST HAPPENED!

RUN OUT!!! MATCH TIED!!!

Match Tied! O’boy, did it really happened? Unbelievable! Though the match was tied, Australia had progressed through to the finals because they finished higher in the Super 6 stage. It was an unbelievable match. One felt for the Proteas team as they were so close to the finals and yet so far. This match would’ve haunted the players for long. This match proved that the game of cricket is highly unpredictable. It shows you why should you never give up even if all the odds are stacked against you. This was the game where Shane Warne cemented himself as one of the greatest match-winners of all time in cricket history. Australia later went onto win the finals against Pakistan.

If there was a super over, would the result be changed? Anyways it was a bloody good match and a fantastic treat for any cricket fan.

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