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Monday 12 January 2015

Aus v South Africa (Semifinal, Birmingham, World Cup 1999)

Venue: Edgbaston, Birmingham

Arguably the greatest one dayer of all time. There have been many classics over the years but for sheer drama, importance of the game and world cup stage, this game stands out from the rest.

The great rivals of the 1990s clashed in this high voltage drama on the back of another classic in their last league match in the same tournament. Needing to win at all cost to stay alive in the tournament #SteveWaugh single handedly won that game for the Aussies against SA. That game had the famous altercation between him and #HerschelleGibbs when the later dropped his catch. Steve's words "Son, you just dropped the world cup" are part of cricketing folklore! We've covered that game on this blog as well.

Back to the semi-final. South Africa the clear favorites on form and domination displayed throughout the tournament. On a lively wicket, #HansieCronje, the SA captain, won the toss and elected to field. Vindicating his decision, #ShaunPollock got #MarkWaugh to nick behind in the first over. 3 for 1.

#RickyPonting and #AdamGilchrist steadied the ship for a while before #AllanDonald broke through the top order to reduce the Aussies to 68 for 4 in 17 overs. Australia in trouble.

This brought the two battle veterans to the crease (Steve Waugh and #MichaelBevan). Both, not the classically elegant stroke makers, saw the need of the hour to perfection. Slowly but steadily they pushed the score towards a decent total. Steve completed his fifty and Australia braced past 150 around the 36th over. 

Enter Shaun Pollock. First Steve Waugh. In the same over, #TomMoody. Superb over. 2 wickets. Australia reeling again at 158 for 6.

Shane Warne in company of Michael Bevan carried on gainly to cross the psychological 200 run mark in the 46th over. They now had a great launch pad to cut loose and post a decent total on board. But, everytime Australia seemed to pull away, the #Proteas seemed to claw back. Pollock had Warne caught at mid on with superb slower delivery. Then Donald produced to absolute beauties to knock back #PaulReiffel and #DamienFleming's stumps off consecutive deliveries. Australia were rocked from  207 for 6 to 207 for 9. None for 3 in two overs!

It was left to Bevan to strike some late blows to get them to 213 before he was out caught behind to hand Pollock and much deserved 5-for. Donald was superb for his 4 wickets. Brilliant performance from South Africa to restrict Australia to that score. Going by their form and battting strength, it looked like a cake walk. Or was it? With the Aussies, you never relax as the SA were about to find out.

High on confidence and chasing a really modest total, SA openers #GaryKirsten and #HerschelleGibbs started in cautious fashion to ensure no quick wickets were lost to Aussie pacers. In 12 overs, 48 for no loss. Great start .. and target looks pretty easy.

Anyone heard of someone called #ShaneWarne? What a magician he is with the ball in hand. Steve Waugh brought him on and boy did he strike? First Gibbs bowled round the legs .. a peach of a delivery. Then Kirsten, trying to sweep from outside off misses the line and bowled through the gates. In walks captain #HansieCronje, promoted to up the ante and throw Australia off guard. 

However with Warne in such hot form and tasted blood, he pounced on Cronje too. He had his edge behind to slips for 0. A decision that still rings controversy. The ball had clearly clipped Cronje's shoe toes. No where near the bat but the umpire thought otherwise and gave it out. Cronje is most unhappy.

From 48 for 0, suddenly SA were 53 for 3 and the game in balance. #DarrylCullinan, already struggling against Warne was run out needlessly reducing them to 61 for 4. Australia on top now. But the game was such that everytime a team pulled away, the other came back strongly. SA did too. Through #JacquesKallis and #JontyRhodes doing the same job as Waugh-Bevan partnership had done earlier in the day. Mixing caution (Kallis) with some aggression (Rhodes), both not only steadied the ship but also laid a great foundation to push SA to victory.

After 40 overs and around 140+ on board, SA were clear favorites? or there was another twist in the tale? There was! Jonthy literally threw his wicket away pulling a Reiffel delivery to deep square leg where Bevan gleefully accepted it. Even steven yet again!!

Another surprise move. Pollock promoted ahead of #LanceKluesner! (Remember Klusener was the butcher finisher in this world cup killing all teams with his power hitting in the end game to clinch vitory for SA almost every time). The move almost paid off. Pollock launched Warne into the stands for a huge six, followed with a boundary. At the other end, Warne claimed Kallis for a well made 53 leaving around 40 odd for his teammates to get.

In walks the crusader Klusener wielding his heavy bat and ready to throw his bat around to take away another victory. However, in haste, Pollocak gifted his wicket to Fleming. Match back on even keel. SA 183 for 7. In comes #MarkBoucher. #GlennMcgrath keeps him check and Kluesner away from strike. In a rush of blood, Boucher loses his head and cleaned up by Mcgrath. 196 for 8. 

18 runs to win from 10 balls. Australia need two tail-end wickets. Its that close and anyones game.

To add to SA's woes, #SteveElworthy is run out in the 49th over trying to keep Kluesner on strike. 

16 from 8 balls.

The next delivery from Mcgrath is smashed by Kluesner towards long on where Paul Reiffel completely messes it up. First he drops the catch, then in all that mess-up, he parries the bowl over the fence for a 6. Wow !! Kluesner steals a run on the last ball to keep strike.

9 from 6 balls.

Steve Waugh throws the ball to Damien Fleming, his trusted death bowler.
Facing him is red hot Kluesner who's ready to finish the game.

First ball. Crunnccch.... the bowl zooms long on for a four. Mark Waugh has no chance to stop it.
Second ball. Swoooooosh ... the bowl creams through extra cover. Another boundary. No fielder moves an inch. No need to. Thats perfection.

1 from 4 balls with Kluesner on strike.
Game over you'd say. But, never discount an Aussie side. That day watching these tense moments with my mother (from whom I inherited this passion for sports) and she said, "This is Australia, just one wicket to go son. I am backing them". I was obviously rooting for SA.

Third ball. All fielders brought in ofcourse to stop the single. Kluesner mistimes it to mid on. Crazily, his non striker #AllanDonald had backed out too far. #DarrenLehmann back flicked his throw at the non-stikers end. The ball passes the stumps by inches and Donald is stranded out of his crease. Oooohs and Aaaahhs all around. Hands on heads for Aussies who certainly may have thought, this is not their day! Discussion between Donald and Kluesner to take it easy.

1 from 3 balls. Still pretty easy with Kluesner on strike.
The commentators on air #BillLawry (Australia) and #MikeProcter (SA) kept going at each other in jest and tension seemed to be getting to them as well.

Fleming delivers a good yorker, Kluesner doesnt connect well and ball rolls straight down the pitch where mid-on intercepts. Kluesner is already way down the pitch to complete the run. Donald seems clueless as there is no communication whatsover. He starts when Kluesner is almost at his end. The flick from mid-on misses the non-stiker stumps. Fleming sees Donald way out of his ground and rolls the ball to Gilchrist. He cooly collects and whips off the stumps, Donald way out of his crease!!

Scores tied. Match tied.
The Aussies celebrate because they qualify for the final (owing to their win against SA in the group stage). Kluesner walks back a dejected man. What a choke for SA. They seem to be hold that tag even till date especially with World Cups.

Cronje is distraught. Waugh is excited. 
Cronje keeps claiming that he was not out. In response, another of Steve Waugh's now famous responses "Yes Hansie you are out. Read the newspaper tomorrow"

What an amazing game. No team deserved to lose (or win either) and it did end a tie.
But Aussies walked away with all the accolades. SA had all the wounds to carry.
My mom was over the moon .. as if she was an Aussie! 

MOM: Shane Warne

Watch some of the terrific highlights of this game here:

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