If there are contemporaries of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in cricket it would definitely be Australia and South Africa. Two of the best cricketing sides when go against each other defined why they are A-list teams. Many games in the long history of these two teams stunned the world with the kind spirit both teams have put in to not give it till the last ball.
So far South Africa and Australia have played a total of 103 ODIs out of which 51 won by South Africa and 48 by Australia while 3 games were tied. The intensity, emotions and drama are on a separate level when going against in the ICC tournaments.
So far rivalry can be defined into two phases where Australia had the upper hand in the 90s but towards the 2000s it was dominated by South Africa. Having said that, let us take a look at the top 5 greatest matches between Australia and South Africa.
South Africa vs Australia,1999, Semi-Final, Edgbaston:
Australia 213-10 (49.2 Overs)
South Africa 213-10 (49.4 Overs)
South Africa deserved to be the finalists. These were the reactions around the world after witnessing this nail-biting semi-final encounter at Edgbaston between South Africa and Australia. 1 run. 3 balls. Semi-final match and South Africa has failed to achieve that 1 run. The tag of “Chokers” was given to the South Africa. Two of the best sides faced off against each other in the semi-final of world Cup 1999 at Edgbaston. South Africa after winning the toss forced Australia to bat first under the hostile conditions.
Australia's team got off to a worst start and were reduced to 68/4 with some good bowling from Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald before Steve Waugh (56) and Michael Bevan (65) put 90 run partnership for the fifth wicket to provide some momentum. From 158/4 to 213/10 it was an absurd collapse. Shaun Pollock (5) and Allan Donald (4) completely destroyed the Australia batting line-up and restricted them at the low score.
214 to chase it was somewhere obvious the South Africa team will clear the line very easily. But it's one-day cricket where anything can happen and that’s what happened in the second innings of the match. South Africa got off to a great start with before bizarre collapse happened. From 48/0 to 61/4 South Africa looked in the trouble before Jacques Kallis (53) and Jonty Rhodes (43) put on crucial 84 run stand partnership for the fifth wicket. From 145/4 to 198/9 it was all over for south Africa.
But Lance Klusener and Allan Donald took the game to last over with 9 runs to required off 6 balls. Lance Klusener smashed two boundaries of first two balls and level the score. The result was obvious South Africa entering the finals but what's next was completely shocking as Klusener hit the ball and shout for the run before both the batsman were at non-striker end and mis-communication lead to run out of Allan Donald.
Bill Lawry commentating on the final ball said, "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."
South Africa vs Australia, 1999, Leeds:
South Africa 271-7 (50 Overs)
Australia 272-5 ( 49.2 Overs)
Another nail-bitting encounter from the 1999 world cup. Before this match Australia team was almost out of the tournament. But one dropped catch of Steve Waugh by Gibbs had changed too many things in the cricket after. Although it was the just catch but Steve Waugh just took this moment to express his emotions with best punch line ever: "Son, you just dropped the World Cup".
If you give a chance to player like Steve Waugh you can't expect his team to be on the losing side ever. After winning the toss South Africa decided to bat and managed to score 272 in their allocated 50 overs with fine century from Herschelle Gibbs who scored 101 runs which featured 10 fours and only six. The other major contribution came from the bat of Daryll Cullinan who scored 50 runs off 62 balls and also involved in the crucial 95 runs partnership for second wicket with Herschelle Gibbs.
Chasing 272 in do and die situation is always difficult and it was almost over for Australia when they were reduced to 48/3 and South Africa was confident enough to end Australia world cup campaign. Australia two best batsman were on the crease and want to fight till last. As Ricky Ponting (69) and Steve Waugh (56) put on 126 run partnership for the fourth wicket to take his team back into the driver seat. At the score 152/3 in 31st over when Gibbs dropped the catch of Steve Waugh. Although Ricky Ponting was out but Steve Waugh remained unbeaten on 120 runs which featured 10 fours and 2 Sixes while making another crucial partnership with Michael Bevan of 73 runs to confirmed their victory and ticket to semi-finals.
Australia vs South Africa,2002,Port Elizabeth:
South Africa 326-3 (50 Overs)
Australia 330-7 (49.1 Overs)
Another epic nail-bitting match towards the end of the 7 match-series. Australia was already leading the series with 4-0 with two more games to go. After winning the toss South Africa decided to bat first and they looked confident from the start while went onto post 326 in the 50 overs. The major contributions came from the 3 star batsman Graeme Smith (84), Jacques Kallis 80* and Jonty Rhodes 71* who remained unbeaten and put the vital partnership of 131 runs for the fourth wicket to take the scoreboard to 326 runs.
In response, Australia got off to a great start with quick-fire fifty from Adam Gilchrist who scored 52 runs 32 balls which featured 8 fours and 2 sixes. But they were reduced to 81/0 to 104/3 by the end of 12 overs. It was 2002, chasing such total was quite difficult after team loss 3 quick wickets. But Ricky Ponting (92) and Darren Lehmann (91) put on 183 run stand partnership for the fourth wicket to put the team back into the hunt and easily chased down the target with 3 wickets in hands and 5 balls to spare.
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Australia vs South Africa,2006,Johannesburg:
Australia 434-4 (50 Overs)
South Africa 438-9 (49.5 Overs)
This match was the trendsetter in world cricket. A team batting first scored 400 plus runs and still came out as a losing side. It was something very new to believe what's actually going on and how a team lost the match. ODI cricket means one-day international cricket and that one day anything can happen and that's what is completely defined by this nail-biting match. At last South Africa got revenge for the World Cup 1999 in this match.
It was the decider of the series and the Australia team came back into the series after being 2-0 down so it was going to be a thriller match. After winning the toss Australia got off to a great start for the opening stand of 97 runs between Adam Gilchrist (55) and Simon Katich (42). What's next Australia at its best. Ricky Ponting hammered 105 ball 164 which featured 13 fours and 9 sixes along with Michael Hussey 51 ball 81 run which featured 9 fours and 3 sixes to help Australia posted an improbable score of 434 with the loss of 4 wickets in the 50 overs.
The winners were almost clear and there was a point to believe in any sort of fight from South Africa in the second innings. But it's ODI cricket where anything can happen and what's next was history created with the greatest run-chase ever in the history of cricket. South Africa began the chase and they got off to a worst start but Graeme Smith (90) and Herschelle Gibbs (97) put on 187 run partnership for the second wicket to ensure South Africa in the chase.
But Herschelle Gibbs took on the Australian bowlers and smashed them around every corner of the ground with a game-changing knock of 111 ball 175 run which featured 21 fours and 7 Sixes. By the time Gibbs got out South Africa required 136 runs with 18 more overs to go. Mark Boucher who remained unbeaten on 50* along Johan Van Der Wath who scored quick-fire 18 ball 35 before getting out. The equation came down to 7 runs required of 6 balls with two wickets in hand.
Brett Lee removed Andre Hall to move the game into a more intense situation. Nitini walked in to support Mark Boucher with 3 balls to go. It was clear Nitini was to be cleaned bowled but he took the single to give the strike back to Mark Boucher who smashed the boundary on the next ball to register one of the greatest ODI Victories in cricket.
Australia vs South Africa,2000,Melbourne:
South Africa 226-8 (50 Overs)
Australia 226-9 (50 Overs)
Australia hosted 3 match series and already leading it by 1-0 within a year of world cup 1999 it was another game between two world class teams that went into the thriller of last over. The South Africa team was not playing with quality players as compared to the Australian side and speculations were clear Australia would easily win this game.
After winning the toss South Africa captain decided to bat first in a do and die situation to keep South Africa alive in the series but they were restricted to the small score of 226 with the loss of 8 wickets in their allocated 50 overs. The only major contribution came from Jonty Rhodes (54) and Mark Boucher (51) to provide some resistance to team score.
In response Australia got off to a great start when openers Adam Gilchrist and Mark Waugh put on 78 run stand partnership for the first wicket. But things went wrong for Australia when reduced to 213/8 with some great bowling from Andrew Hall in the last few overs. The equation boiled down to 13 runs required off 6 balls with one wicket in hand. It was a South Africa match but in the end it was tied within a year of the 1999 World Cup 1999. The match was tied with one more game to go which in the end won by South Africa to level the series by 1-1.
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