With the 2019 edition of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup set to begin on May 30, we look back at the most memorable moments from the tournament’s four-decade-long history. You can read the entire series here.
Moment No 14
Chasing 214 for a win to enter the final of a World Cup for the first time, Jacques Kallis (53) and Jonty Rhodes (43) helped South Africa build a solid base. However, a four-wicket haul by leg-spinner Shane Warne planted a seed of doubt. And then the infamous South African nerves made an appearance.
The only player who seemed invulnerable to them was the indomitable Lance Klusener, who was in the form of his life. No score was too big, no chase too difficult given how well he was striking the ball in the 1999 World Cup.
As the enthralling game entered the last over, South Africa needed nine runs to win with only one wicket in hand. Klusener was on strike and he hit the first two balls for four.
The first ball was an attempted yorker by Damien Fleming. He got it just a little wrong and Klusener smashed it to the deep mid-wicket boundary. After the ball, the left-hander walked over to the umpire and asked him whether a tie is good enough. It wasn’t.
The second ball was a length delivery and Klusener threw the kitchen sink at it. It went wide of long-off, all along the mat and into the gap. The equation changed dramatically – one run needed off four balls.
Klusener was still on strike and given how he was batting (he was 31 not out off only 14 balls), the result should not have been in doubt.
On the air, the commentator wondered: “Is Klusener going to do it again for South Africa?”
On the field, Australia seemed tense, perhaps even resigned to fate.
Just before the third ball of the over was bowled, Klusener held up his gloves, showing four fingers to the umpire, confirming that there were indeed four deliveries left. The field was brought up, everyone in to try and cut out the single.
The third ball was shot and Klusener went for the pull. But it was a mis-hit. The ball went straight to Darren Lehman at mid-on but Allan Donald, at the non-striker’s end, set off thinking the winning moment had arrived.
Lehmann ran in and needed only to hit his target with an underarm throw from barely five metres to tie the match and send Australia through to the final at Lord’s. But he missed by a whisker and all Donald could offer a sheepish smile and a glance skywards as he sank to his knees.
“I remember standing at the non-striker’s end, not having faced a ball thankfully in the short period I was there,” Donald later recounted in an interview to cricket.com.au. “And I thought ‘how nice is this, just one blow and it’s done and we’re in the final’.”
Perhaps the moment shook Klusener too. We will never know.
The fourth ball was once again very full, it hit the toe end of Klusener’s bat and went straight past the bowler. The left-hander set off right away but Donald, still shaken by his near miss, kept his bat firmly planted in his crease watching the ball. There was no single there but Klusener called early.
Mark Waugh, at mid-off, gathered and released the ball. It missed the stumps at the non-striker’s end, was picked up Fleming, who then under-armed it to the keeper. Only then did Donald start to move. By then, it was too late. The match ended in a tie. Australia had snatched victory from the arms of defeat. South Africa had choked and Klusener just kept running to the dressing room. He did not look back, he did not wait for Donald.
Amazingly, there were two balls still left in the match. Two balls that would have had Klusener on strike.
“I was upset with myself that I could have maybe been a little more patient,” recalls Klusener. “But hindsight is a brilliant science. You can always sit and say ‘what if we only would have waited’ or whatever it was. But those last two balls could have been brilliant yorkers and we could have been sitting saying, ‘Oh why didn’t we take out opportunity early on’.”
Klusener finished on an unbeaten 31 in just 16 deliveries.
“I was a little cross with myself that I hadn’t been a little more patient with myself in trying to just get that one more run but that’s just the beauty of the game,” he added.
“I am always one for taking the opportunity when it’s there. I thought that was the right opportunity but it didn’t turn out to be.”
Donald’s memory of the incident is an ugly one and it continues to haunt him to this day.
“I suppose that YouTube thing will never stop,” said Donald. “They will never take that off. I’ve watched it a hundred and whatever times, and I think that’s just something I had to deal with personally – being involved in that sort of incident. I think the best thing for me was to watch that, and the best therapy to try and get to terms with what actually happened there.”
“It was ugly, it was one of sport’s very, very big disappointments and one of the biggest mistakes that you’ll ever probably see in cricket that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.”
Watch the full highlights of the match here: