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SK Flashback: The Australia vs South Africa Super Six match at World Cup 1999 turns into a soap opera

  • Australia had to win this match to reach the semi-finals, and Steve Waugh was waging a gritty battle. Just then, Lady Luck smiled on him.
Modified 17 May 2019, 09:55 IST

When supreme confidence turns into arrogance, the consequences can be disastrous.

In a Super Six game at the 1999 World Cup, Herschelle Gibbs, one of the finest fielders in the world - almost in the Jonty Rhodes class - took a simple catch at short mid-wicket off the bat of Australian captain Steve Waugh. Or so everyone thought.

In the next split-second Gibbs tried to throw the ball into the air in glee, and to his horror saw it slip to the ground. Waugh’s famous words to Gibbs (which, as it has turned out, were a figment of someone's creativity) after the incident: "Son, you just dropped the World Cup", will haunt the South African players forever.

Skipper Steve Waugh
Skipper Steve Waugh's superb century, albeit fortuitous, clinched this vital encounter for Australia

Whether or not you rate Waugh as a great batsman, there can be no dispute that he was one of the greatest fighters in the history of the game. There has been no cricketer more resolute, nor one with a cooler temperament. Waugh was the original ice-man of the game, and a fierce warrior of the cricketing arena, rolled into one.

He was already staging an archetypal rally in the company of Ricky Ponting, when Gibbs committed one of the biggest gaffes the game has known. That was just the luck that Waugh needed to carry his side to one of the most epic wins in one-day cricket. 

Until that horrible moment, South Africa’s hero of the match was, ironically, Gibbs himself. Australia had to win this last Super Six match to advance to the semi-finals. For South Africa too a victory was crucial, as later events were to prove.

It was Gibbs who gave impetus to the South African innings with a superb century. He laid a solid foundation in the company of Gary Kirsten as they raised 45 in an opening stand. Next, he put on 95 for the second wicket with Daryll Cullinan, who scored an even fifty. Finally, he added 78 off just 11.3 overs for the fourth wicket with Jonty Rhodes.

Gibbs hit 101 off 134 deliveries with a six and 10 fours. Lance Klusener then came in and played just as he had throughout the tournament, blasting the Australian attack. He smashed 36 off 21 balls with a six and 4 fours.

South Africa looked safe with their total of 271 for seven. And when Australia slumped to 48 for three in the middle of the 12th over, the Proteas seemed to have the match in their pockets. But that was when the Waugh juggernaut began to grind.


He brought up his fifty, and in the company of Ponting set up a century stand. It was 152 for three in the 31st over, with Waugh on 56, when he flicked Klusener to Gibbs. 

You don’t give a chance like that to Steve Waugh and not pay for it. Pay South Africa did, and how! Waugh hammered nail after nail in the South African coffin, and try as hard as Hansie Cronje’s men did, he did not give another chance.

His stand with Ponting tallied 126. There was another worth 73 for the fifth wicket with Michael Bevan. Waugh brought up his second century in 266 one-day internationals, and continued to battle.

With eight runs needed in the last over, he made the winning hit off the fourth ball. His unbeaten 120 came off 110 balls with two sixes and 10 fours. Need we say more? 

South Africa: 271 for 7 wickets (50 overs), Australia: 272 for 5 wickets (49.4 overs) (CWC 1999)

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Published 12 May 2019, 17:34 IST
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