On 17th June 1999, Edgbaston became a witness to a tied game, which was perhaps the 15th tie and the first in a World Cup. If the tournament-decider of the 2019 World Cup had an insane drama attached to it, one would have to witness one of the first mishaps faced by South Africa in World Cups. And Allan Donald, one of the heroes of their glorious campaign, became the villain, leaving Lance Klusener’s efforts in vain. Moreover, Bill Lawry’s words in the last over of the second semi-final between Australia and South Africa reverberate till date.
Australia’s crisis men, captain Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan, plotted a recovery after a top-order collapse. Aside from that, their scorecard had very little to show as Shaun Pollock and Donald tore their plans apart. The Waugh-Bevan stand of 90 followed by a vital partnership of 49 between Shane Warne and Bevan scampered Australia to 213. Bevan top-scored with 65.
The Proteas saw a clear path to their maiden World Cup final and four days after Steve Waugh’s stunning counterattack in Leeds left them dazed; it was their chance to get back at Australia. Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs sleep-walked themselves to an opening stand of 48 in 12 overs. It was Warne’s leg-spin that hit back thrice in three overs to inspire the 1987 champions back in the game. The 21st over forced Daryl Cullinan back in the hut as a direct hit from Michael Bevan did the task.
At 61-4, Hansie Cronje’s men were in severe trouble; however, Jonty Rhodes and Jacques Kallis steadied with a partnership of 84. By this time, Australia again needed something special, and it was Paul Reiffel, who removed Jonty Rhodes for 43 in the 40th over. The 45th oversaw the back of Kallis for 53; however, Australia had no time to celebrate as Klusener was waiting in the hut.
Around Klusener, South Africa kept losing wickets as Pollock, who got a start departed for 20. Mark Boucher and Steve Elworthy also exited for single-figure scores. Hence, it was Lance Klusener, standing between Australia’s moment of glory and South Africa’s greatest chapter of redemption. And the eventual man of the tournament hadn’t spared Australia in the super-six game at Headingley either.
The moment that resulted in South Africa’s misadventure:
The final over had come down for Australia, needing to defend an unlikely nine runs, considering Zulu was on strike. It was up to Fleming, who boasted of figures of 8-1-40-1 thus far. But as much as it was South Africa’s game to lose, they only had one wicket in hand to play with. Hansie Cronje’s expression of keeping his head wasn’t justified initially as Klusener hammered the first two balls along the ground for a boundary to cover and long-off respectively.
Yet, Australia didn’t dishearten themselves, and Steve Waugh brought all his men inside the circle to save the single. The third delivery entailed Klusener mis-hit a pull shot to Darren Lehmann at mid-on. Donald, at the other end, backed up a long way before returning to the crease, survived an exceptionally close call as Lehmann’s underarm throw missed the stumps by a whisker. Commentator Mike Proctor remarked, “that could be the difference between a World Cup final or nothing.”
South Africa still had three more balls to get the required single and face Pakistan in the final. But Klusener mis-hit the ball again, this time to Mark Waugh at mid-off. Klusener ran down the pitch desperately even though there were two deliveries still left. Donald, at the other end, stayed within the crease, watched the ball instead of concentrating on his partner, unable to respond to his call.
Waugh rolled the ball to Fleming, who in turn did the same to keeper Adam Gilchrist. Allan Donald stood no chance as Gilchrist dislodged the stumps for a diamond duck to the tailender.
Former Australian captain, Bill Lawry’s famous words quoted as “There it is, this will be out surely – oh it’s out, it’s gonna be run out…oh, that is South Africa out – Donald did not run, I cannot believe it. Australia go into the World Cup Final – ridiculous running with two balls to go. Donald did not go, Klusener came – what a disappointing end for South Africa. What a match for our viewers right around the world.”
Steve Waugh’s men progressed to the World Cup final, thanks to boasting of a superior net run-rate and finishing higher on the table at the end of the Super Six stage. Australia went on to defeat Pakistan by eight wickets at the Lord’s to lift their second World Cup with Shane Warne being crowned the man of the match. But it can be said that the Proteas exacted their revenge by successfully gunning down 435 seven years later in an ODI against Australia in Johannesburg.