WITH A place in the World Cup final at stake, this rematch of the two most combative sides was even more nerve-shredding than its predecessor at Headingley. With the scores level and South Africa's last pair at the crease, Lance Klusener had three balls in which to score the run that would take his side to their first World Cup final. What happened next, as both batsmen ended up at the bowler's end, will never be used in A Question of Sport's "What Happened Next", for it will remain a painful memory for an entire nation for a very long time to come as Australia won by virtue of finishing above South Africa in the Super Sixes - the margin between agony and ecstasy being a run-rate difference of 0.2.
For Klusener, who once again was left to club and batter his team to victory, the moment will be replayed time and time again. Having smashed the first two balls of Damien Fleming's final over to the cover boundary to bring the scores level, he must have felt the hard work had been done. And yet the nerves were still apparent: Allan Donald, backing up too far as Klusener dug out a yorker, would have been run out had Darren Lehmann's underarm throw from mid-on hit the stumps as the batsman tried to regain his ground.
The next ball, another yorker, brought an almost identical stubbed shot from Klusener, who, sensing it had gone behind the bowler, set off for the winning run. Donald, however, his close shave still a recent memory, watched the ball instead. As Michael Bevan ran round from mid-on to field, and backhanded the ball at the stumps, Donald found Klusener standing next to him. In a panic he set off for the other end only to find that the ball had arrived some time before him and Australians all around were beginning to punch the air in celebration.
Afterwards, Steve Waugh said it was the best game of cricket he had played in. If adrenalin tends to beget hyperbole in such situations, the Australian captain, who again made crucial runs for his side, will have saved a special mention for Shane Warne, whose 4 for 29, including spell of 3 for 12 off eight overs, got his team back into the game. "Someone had to put in a great spell," said Waugh, "and Warney was the man."
When Warne came on in the 11th over, South Africa, chasing Australia's moderate total of 213 all out, were coasting at 48 for 0. With the second ball of his second over, he clean bowled Herschelle Gibbs with a leg-break every bit the equal of the so-called "ball of the century" he rissoled Mike Gatting with at Old Trafford in 1993. As it had done with England at the time, the replay in the South African dressing-room would have given those waiting their turn nothing but collywobbles.
Apart from that, it lifted Warne as well, and the fizz and drift rarely seen in this World Cup returned just as it was most needed as Gary Kirsten and Hansie Cronje - unfortunately given out caught at slip off his toe- cap - went in his next over.
The Aussies have long maintained that South Africa have a habit of bottling the big ones. But if that bogey remains on their CV, it looked at one stage as if Australia had caught the bug when Paul Reiffel spilt two vital catches.
Unlike the surface for the Old Trafford semi-final, this was a fresh pitch and Cronje had no hesitation in putting Australia in after winning the toss. With the first hour overcast, it was frisky too, offering enough sideways and vertical movement to disconcert the early batsmen. Mark Waugh's dismissal in the first over of the match was a case in point, the ball from Shaun Pollock bounced and nipped back sharply to take an unwary glove.
Pollock, who along with Donald played here for Warwickshire, bowled quite beautifully, something he has not done very often in recent times, later removed the other Waugh as well for 56, the same score at which Gibbs dropped him during the Headingley humdinger last Sunday.
Donald, who has spent just over a decade charging in at this ground, has learned to find that length here in his sleep. Despite the enormity of the fixture, he did not strain, and his figures of 4 for 32, including two frozen rabbits, were those of a seasoned campaigner. On another day he would have been a hero. As it was, his ball-watching with one run needed has made him the villain of the piece.
drama of the last two overs
Bowler: Glenn McGrath
Boucher fails to score as McGrath sends down a full toss with the first ball of his final over
Runs required: 18 from 11 balls
Boucher is dismissed as his middle stump is removed by a ball of perfect length from McGrath
Runs required: 18 from 10 balls
Elworthy scores a single
Runs required: 17 from 9 balls
Klusener strikes the ball to long-on. Reiffel's return is cleverly diverted on to the stumps by McGrath, who runs out Elworthy as he goes for a second run
Runs required: 16 from 8 balls
Klusener lofts McGrath towards the long-on boundary. Reiffel attempts to catch the ball but succeeds only in deflecting it over the boundary for six.
Runs required: 10 from 7 balls
Klusener hits the ball through mid-wicket for a single and keeps the strike for the start of the final over.
Runs required: 9 from 6 balls
Bowler: Damien Fleming
Klusener clubs Fleming's first ball through the covers for four.
Runs required: 5 from 5 balls
Klusener drives the ball through extra cover for four.
Runs required: 1 from 4 balls
Klusener hits the ball to mid-on, where Lehmann fields. Donald takes off for a run but is sent back by Klusener. Donald is well short of his ground but Lehmann's throw misses the stumps
Runs required: 1 from 3 balls
Klusener hits the ball past Fleming and sets off for a run. Donald waits for the ball to go past him and watches Bevan field it. He turns to see Klusener a yard away, drops his bat and sets off for the far end. Bevan throws the ball to Fleming, who in turn throws it to Gilchrist at the other end. Gilchrist removes the bails with Donald well short of the crease.
Match tied. Australia go through to final to play Pakistan on basis of Super Six positionsReuse content