13th June 1999. A very intense Australia vs South Africa World Cup match with much drama and significance!
Although Australia qualified for the Super six based on overall points, they began with zero points as both Pakistan and New Zealand beat them in the group stage and Australia did not carry any points in the Super Six stage. They beat India and Zimbabwe and had four points, whereas both Pakistan and South Africa were with six points and thanks to an abandoned match between New Zealand and Zimbabwe, they also had five points each. Hence Australia required a win in the last match of the Super six to qualify for the Semi Final.
South Africa batted first and posted 271/7. For them, the star was Herschelle Gibbs who scored a brilliant 101. Gibbs was supported by Daryll Cullinan who scored 50. Jonty Rhodes (39) and player-of-the-tournament Lance Klusener (36 off 21) made valuable contributions. For Australia, Damien Fleming took 3/57 and Shane Warne finished with a couple of wickets. But Warne’s more important contribution came later in the match.
Shane Warne used to surprise people with the accuracy of his prediction. Most famously he predicted a tie before the India-England match during 2011 World Cup. In the team meeting before that match against South Africa, Warne told his teammate that, they should keep an eye on Herschelle Gibbs who had a tendency to start celebrating for a catch even before getting hold of the ball completely and in such cases, the batsmen should hold the ground.
Australia did not have a good start. When the captain Steve Waugh came to bat they were struggling with 48/3. Waugh wasn’t in great form but tried to build a partnership with Ricky Ponting. They crossed 100-run partnership and on 152/3 the most dramatic thing happened. Waugh was batting on 56. Klusener bowled, Steve’s flick was mistimed, the ball went to short mid-wicket where Gibbs was fielding, Gibbs caught the ball and within few seconds the ball was on the floor. Even the commentators mentioned that Waugh was out initially. Replays showed that Gibbs was trying to celebrate by throwing the ball up even before being in full control of the ball and that’s where the mishap happened.
After the incident, it looked like Waugh said a few words to Gibbs. Many fans believe that Waugh said, “How it feels to drop the World Cup?” but both players denied having that conversation.
Waugh took that chance with both hands, scored an unbeaten century and took Australia to a five-wicket victory. That win not only took Australia to semi-final it also pushed them to the second position, just above South Africa by Net Run Rate. Four days later after the tie, the position in the super six table was the decider and Australia qualified on that count.