"This could change the course of this match, that's for sure", said Tony Greig in the commentary box, analysing the consequences of a dropped catch, which would go on to be etched in the memories of cricket fans all over the world. What Greig did not know was that it could also go on to change the course of that tournament — the 1999 Cricket World Cup.
Herschelle Gibbs' name will easily feature among the best fielders who have played the sport. But on 13 June, 1999, his one mistake in the field, cost his country not only a Super Six match against Australia but eventually the World Cup.
The infamous dropped catch happened during a Super Six match in the 1999 ODI Cricket World Cup between Australia and South Africa. The Australians were badly in need of a win to topple Zimbabwe to reach the semi-finals where they were to play South Africa again, in a matter of four days. Batting first, Proteas put on 271/7 in their 50 overs, propelled by a brilliant century by Gibbs himself.
Australians got off to a wobbly start in the chase, considering the importance of the match for them, with the scorecard reading 48/3 after 11 overs. It was then that captain Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting stitched together a partnership that steadied the ship for Australia. At 152/3, Australia were comfortably placed in the match, with Waugh beginning to open up.
And then came the moment.
In the 31st over of the chase, Lance Klusener bowled one at Waugh's legs and the right-handed batsman flicked it to Gibbs at mid-wicket. Gibbs had it caught in his two hands for a moment but in process of tossing it up to celebrate the catch, the ball slipped out of his hands, leaving him and his side both embarrassed and stunned at that crucial juncture of the match. Proteas captain Cronje had a word with the umpires who refused to believe it was not a dropped catch.
Waugh, did not only survive but also went on to score an unbeaten 120 off 110 balls to take his side home and through to the semi-finals.
— ICC (@ICC) April 8, 2019
Four days later, both teams clashed again in the semis when a mix-up between Klusener and Allan Donald between the wickets, pushed them out of the World Cup, still considered one of the most famous cricketing moments of all time.
Australia went on to lift the trophy, beating Pakistan comprehensively, their first of the three consecutive World Cup wins.
Not to forget, Gibbs received one of the harshest sledges of all time as well, after dropping the catch. The cricketing folklore has it that Waugh told Gibbs, just after he had dropped him: “How does it feel to drop the World Cup?”
However, later on, Waugh denied having said exactly that but he also mentioned that he might have said something on those lines.
Waugh told Fox Sports in 2019, "We’ll give Herschelle a rest. It’s been 20 years, I feel sorry for him now. He’s copped enough. He was a great fieldsmen and a very good player and it’s probably time for us to let him have a breather. It was a crucial dropped catch and I probably said one or two things to him but it was all in good fun."
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