The moment one recalls the 1999 World Cup semi-final between South Africa and Australia, that one picture comes to mind. That picture of contrasting emotions. The men-in-yellow, Australians, in jubilation, on top of the world, while Allan Donald is walking back, removing his helmet, distraught and disgruntled. As destiny would have it, the equally disheartened Lance Klusener is not even in the frame. And he would not mind really.
— ICC (@ICC) June 17, 2017
If you were a South African fan, at that moment, you would know this picture would haunt you forever. Every 17 June, it would come back to take you back to that run-out. Klusener's hit past the non-striker, Donald ball-watching, and South Africa's moment of biggest despair, becoming cricket's greatest on-field moment, and this game arguably, the greatest ODI of all time.
However, it was not just the last ball that defines the greatness of the match. It was a game that saw a stiff battle between bat and ball. Donald and Shaun Pollock combining to share nine wickets between them, terrific knocks from Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan under pressure, Jacques Kallis and Jonty Rhodes fighting it out to steady the Proteas ship while chasing and Klusener's heroics almost taking his side home. Not to forget, Australia's never-say-die spirit, which took them out of jail. There was not a moment for a cricket fan to take his eye off from the action in the middle. The climax only made it better, making it seem like an ageless classic.
Bowling first, South Africa did well to restrict the Australians for just 213. The game seemed to be slipping out of Australia's hands as Gary Kirtsen and Herschelle Gibbs put on 48 for the first wicket. But then, the Australians started making inroads. Shane Warne led the team back into the contest with three quick wickets, turning the tide, inside three overs. Kallis and Rhodes got together to resurrect Proteas. And in the end, it was all left for Klusener, who had had an outstanding World Cup so far, to finish things off. But he had last man Donald as his partner and this is what made it more difficult to cross the line.
With nine to win from last over, Klusener took strike for the first ball, much to the dislike of Paul Reiffel, who had dropped the Southpaw in last over at long on off Glenn McGrath. If he had caught him, it would virtually have been game, set and match for the Australians. But that was not in the script on offer.
The Proteas hopes turned almost into a reality, as Klusener hit two fours off the first two balls through the off side to bring the scores level. It brought the equation down to one needed off four balls. Damien Fleming, bowling the last over, had bowled first two balls fuller and from round the wicket. On the third ball, he went slightly short from over the wicket, Klusener hit it to mid on and Donald set off for a non-existent run but he was sent back by Klusener. Darren Lehmann missed his direct hit. Had it hit, Donald was a goner. Proteas, despite, looking set to win, appeared in some sort of hurry to finish.
The fourth ball, fuller, outside the off stump, made Klusener stretch. He could only hit it past his batting partner. Mark Waugh fielded it brilliantly, and while diving threw it to Fleming at non-striker's end, who saw Donald ball-watching and frozen and Klusener almost past him. He threw it to keeper Adam Gilchrist, who dislodged the bails and finished the match, and also South Africa's dream run in the tournament, in the cruelest way possible.
The game was a tie. On the basis of earlier results in Super Six stage, Australia entered the final. And a few days later, they were world champions.
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