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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Tied semi-final against Australia brings South Africa the chokers tag

Adam Gilchrist - Australia runs out Allan Donald in final over
©Reuters

June 17, 1999 - With just nine required to win off the last over, Klusener hit back to back boundaries off Damien Fleming on the first two deliveries. Then the choke happened.

 

Since their readmission in international cricket in 1991, South Africa had been a force to be reckoned with. Even in the 1996 World Cup, the team was not short on talent but lacked experience, which is why they could reach only as far as the quarter-finals.

By the time the 1999 World Cup arrived, the players who already had the skill in 1996 now had an additional experience of three years under their belt. With a couple of new players thrown in, the team looked formidable.

They began with a 14-un victory against India and then beat Sri Lanka by 89 runs, England by 122 runs and New Zealand by 7 wickets. A 7-wicket victory against Kenya followed. All these wins had been clinical and reiterated the fact that the Proteas were one of the contenders for the title this time around.

An anomaly occured in the form of a 48-run defeat against Zimbabwe but you were always going to lose a couple of matches in a longish tournament such as the 1999 edition. The team was back on track with a 3-wicket win against Pakistan and a 74-run victory against New Zealand.

South Africa could have won their last Super Six clash against Australia as well had Herschel Gibbs not dropped the much talked about Steve Waugh catch. As it turned out, on the back of a brilliant century from Steve, Australia won the match by 5 wickets in the last over.

The Aussies had qualified to the final on the back of victories against Bangladesh, West Indies, India and Zimbabwe. Although things were looking quite grim for them at one point, with a five-wicket defeat against New Zealand, followed by another 10-run loss against Pakistan.

 

In order to qualify for the semi-finals, Australia had to win their last Super Six match against South Africa which day just managed to do.

After a gap of three days, the two teams squared off against each other once again. While Australia were fortunate to win the Super Six match, both teams knew that based on form and even skill, South Africa were the better side.

It was a strange match as it kept swinging like a pendulum. When Shaun Pollock removed Mark Waugh in the very first over, it was advantage South Africa. A period of rebuilding followed. Despite half centuries from Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan, Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock shared 9 wickets between them to dismiss Australia for 213.

With Michael Bevan's dismissal, Shaun Pollock completed his fifer and ensured that the South African batsmen did not have a big total to chase.

The opening pair of Herschel Gibbs and Gary Kirsten took South Africa to 48 from 12 overs and things were looking quite comfortable for them when Shane Warne arrived. He flummoxed both Kirsten and Gibbs, castling them, while skipper Hansie Cronje was caught at slip off only his second delivery.

Jacques Kallis and Jonty Rhodes kept South Africa in the match but it was Lance Klusener who came to his own as he smacked boundaries at will. With just nine required to win off the last over, Klusener hit back to back boundaries off Damien Fleming on the first two deliveries to bring down the equation to just one needed off four deliveries.

Allan Donald, who has an ODI batting average of 4.31, was on the non striker's end. The last man survived a close run-out on the third ball. On the fourth delivery, as the ball trickled down the pitch, Klusener ran for his life.

Donald, on the other hand, overcorrected himself and stay put in the crease. Damien Fleming rolled back the ball to Adam Gilchrist who broke the stumps. The moment of brain freeze brought about the chokers tags. As the match was tied, the Super Six defeat came back to haunt South Africa as on the basis of the head to head record, Australia qualified to the final while South Africa suffered the biggest cricketing heartbreak of all time.

 

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