SK Flashback: When Herschelle Gibbs dropped Steve Waugh in the World Cup
Cricket can be a cruel sport at times and who better than Herschelle Gibbs to understand this fact. While there are a few instances in the history of world cricket where spectacular catches have turned the fortunes of the teams and resulted in uncanny victories for them, there is one incident of the infamous dropped catch by Gibbs in the 1999 World Cup that is etched in the memory of every cricket fan.
Despite being one of the most prolific run scorers for the South African unit, Gibbs has always been and probably will be remembered for this crucial drop which eventually resulted in his country losing the World Cup.
The build up
The formidable Australian team had suffered defeats against Pakistan and New Zealand in the early stages of the World Cup. And those jitters in the early part of the campaign resulted in a tremendous amount of pressure being mounted on the Australian skipper Steve Waugh.
The cricket pundits and enthusiastic fans all around the world started questioning his ability with the bat and serious doubts started creeping up in the media and amongst the ardent Australian fans over his leadership skills. His ability to take the strong Australian outfit to yet another World Cup conquest was in serious doubt.
13th June 1999
The mighty Aussie faced the inform South African unit in the final match of the Super Six stage at Headingley. The Australian outfit encountered a must-win situation in this epic clash in order to guarantee their spot in the final four.
The Proteas were one of the firm favourites to lift the coveted trophy and they indeed started this clash on a promising note as they won the toss and elected to bat first. Herschelle Gibbs was at his best with the willow as he anchored the innings and set up a strong platform for a late onslaught.
The stylish opening batsman crafted his way to a well-deserved hundred to propel the South Africans to a mammoth score of 271 runs in the first innings. His impressive knock of 101 at the top of the order was studded with ten fours and one huge hit over the fence.
“You just dropped the World Cup mate!”
The pressure of chasing a huge total in the deciding game of the tournament got the better of the strong Australian batting unit as they struggled to get going in the early part of their innings. They were down and dusted after losing three early wickets for 48 runs in this massive run chase.
In walked the Australian skipper, Steve Waugh to battle it out for his nation in this humongous match and was soon welcomed in the Leeds arena with some words spoken by Gibbs in the middle.
Australia, however, had the two of their finest batsmen in the history of the modern era, Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh to bail their side of out this trouble. The duo slowly and steadily went about their business and started building a crucial partnership of 126 runs for the fourth wicket which edged the team closer to the target.
The Aussies were benefited in the run chase as the captain was granted a crucial reprieve on 56 by Gibbs in the 31st over. Lance Klusener pitched the ball on the middle stump and was flicked in the air by Waugh to mid-wicket. Gibbs, normally an outstanding fielder caught the ball but unfortunately for him and his team, his excitement to hurl the ball up in the air for celebrations, resulted in the ball slipping from his fingertips, giving the Australian unit a vital reprieve.
Post the dropped catch, Waugh was quoted saying after the end of the 31st over, “ You just dropped the World Cup Mate!” This famous line by the skipper proved to be true as Australia crafted their way to a famous win.
The outcome of the dropped catch
The dropped catch proved to be a turning point of the match as Waugh, single-handedly carried his team through to the semi-finals with a scintillating unbeaten hundred. The knock of 120 is regarded as one of the finest innings in the history of One Day cricket.
Australia was up against the same opposition in the semi-finals of the tournament. Plenty of drama in the final match of the Super Six ensured that the semifinal was the most awaited clash of the tournament. The match lived up to all the hype and proved to be a nail-biting affair which eventually ended in a tie.
The tie resulted in the Australian team sailing through to the finals of the World Cup as they finished higher in the Super Six table due to superior net run rate. The Aussies went on to win the title after a comprehensive victory over Pakistan by eight wickets in the finals of the tournament.