17th June 1999, 20 years to this day, saw the greatest one day international. It was the World Cup year in England and this match was the semi-final between Australia and South Africa at Edgbaston. Only four days prior these two teams played a dramatic match where Steve Waugh’s unbeaten century after being let off by the Herschelle Gibbs due to his pre-mature celebration.
Although this semi-final is only remembered for the epic last over, the entire match was a roller coaster ride with some great performances. South Africa won the toss and decided to bowl. Shaun Pollock bowled brilliantly and got the first wicket in the very first over when Mark Waugh was caught behind for zero. Gilchrist and Ponting added 51 runs before the partnership was broken by Allan Donald and soon Australia were 68/4 in the 17th over as Jack Kallis also joined the party. It was an outstanding pace bowling attack from South Africa which was hugely successful throughout the tournament.
Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan started the recovery work and added 90 runs. They started to look dangerous and Australian fans hoped for a 250 plus total. But Again Pollock came and got Waugh (56) and Tom Moody in the same over to peg Australia back. Again from 158/6, Australia moved to 207/6 as Shane Warne (18) Provided key support to Bevan (65). But Pollock and Donald were too good on that day and the duo picked up last four Australian wickets in nine balls to make them all out for 213. Pollock got five wickets and Donald picked up four.
South Africa started their reply strongly as Gibbs scored quick runs in the first 10 overs. Shane Warne was introduced in the 11th over and the second ball of his second over was a brilliant leg spin which drifted and dropped outside leg stump and then turned swiftly to hit the top of the off stump. It was poetry in mission. In his next over Warner took the wickets of Gary Kirsten and Hansie Cronje and when Daryll Cullinan was run out by Bevan, South Africa were 61 for 4 in the 22nd over and the target looked far away. But again there was a twist. Kallis and Jonty Rhodes built a partnership and batted till 40th over and took the score to 145. Once Rhodes were gone for 43, Pollock came and added 30 runs with Kallis before Kallis (53) was dismissed as Warne’s fourth victim. With 39 runs required off 31 balls it was anyone’s game but Lance Klusener, arguably the player of the tournament, came to bat and South African fans were still hoping. Next four overs saw 30 runs and three wickets as Klusener picked up runs and kept losing partners. The last over started with South Africa requiring nine runs with Klusener and number eleven Donald at the crease.
The last over was one of the most dramatic sequences of cricket in any cricket field ever. The first two balls of Damien Fleming were driven mercilessly by Klusener for two boundaries and the scores were tied. However, South Africa needed to score that one run as a tied match would mean Australia’s qualification as they finished above South Africa in the super six standing. The third ball was pulled to mid on by Klusener and Donald was almost ran himself out by going for an impossible single. On the next ball, Donald did the opposite. Klusener hit a firm drive and started to run as the ball went to Mid on. Donald did not start on time, lost his bat and his desperate effort to reach the other side went on vain as the Australians completed the run-out and started jumping of joy and ecstasy. For South Africa, it was again a story of heartbreak and a miss by the smallest of margins.