In these days of Twenty-20 cricket and chunky bats, unconventional hitting is quite a common sight. But earlier too there were batsmen who would indulge in exhilarating strokeplay and send the crowds into raptures.
This match in 1999 not only saw one of the most amazing fightbacks in World Cup history but was also witness to the continuing saga of awesome hitting by Lance Klusener. Moin Khan’s pyrotechnics with the bat and the pacemen’s devastating spells had virtually assured Pakistan of victory in this super-six clash of the favourites. That was until ‘Zulu’ Klusener entered the scene.
After openers Saeed Anwar and Wajahatullah Wasti raised 41 for the first wicket, the Pakistan innings seemed to be meandering along with half the side back in the pavilion for 118 in the 36th over. Wicketkeeper Moin Khan, who essayed several scintillating knocks in this tournament, walked in to play another brilliant inning. He smote the ball all over the ground, hitting 63 off 56 balls with 2 sixes and 6 fours. In association with Azhar Mahmood, he put on 56 in 35 deliveries for the seventh wicket. By the time he was run out, the Pakistan innings had been resuscitated, finally ending at 220 for seven.
Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, and Azhar Mahmood reduced South Africa to 58 for five in 20 overs of sustained hostility. Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock staged a rescue act in a 77-run stand off 16.1 overs. When Klusener came in at 135 for six, 86 runs were required off 83 balls. He infused urgency in the proceedings immediately, adding 41 off 8.1 overs with Kallis. The equation was still unfavorable when Kallis was out. With just 34 balls left there were still 45 runs to get with 3 wickets in hand.
The Pakistan bowling wilted as Klusener launched a blistering attack. Mark Boucher was an able ally, as the pair refused to look back. The classy Pakistan attack was treated like a ragged schoolboy outfit. As many as 44 runs came off just four overs as South Africa raced to victory with an over to spare. Klusener smashed an unbeaten 46 off 41 balls with 3 sixes and 3 fours in a man-of-the-match performance. By now he had scored a record 396 runs in 9 consecutive undefeated innings in One-day Internationals. Personal glory, though, is secondary to Klusener. He once described his outlook thus: "Put me down as a team man. It is how I see myself and my cricket. It seems to work."
Klusener and Moin stood apart in this tournament for their clean hitting. The entire complexion of an innings would change when they entered the scene. That they did it match-after-match was quite amazing. It was appropriate then that both fired on all cylinders when their sides clashed. They enthralled the spectators, with one of them first lifting his side from a quagmire and raising a total of respectable proportions, then the other clinching victory from a near-impossible position.
Of such stirring deeds are legends of One-day cricket made. When others struggle, men such as these dazzle, improvising all the time, sometimes playing shots that never existed in the coaching manuals. Unorthodox, with a keen eye and an uncanny sense of timing, these are the gladiators who have made One-day cricket the spectacular sport that it is.
Pakistan: 220 for 7 wickets (50 overs), South Africa: 221 for 7 wickets (49 overs) (CWC 1999)
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