1999 ICC World Cup: A haunting memory

BY MATTHEW COLLINS - FEBRUARY 5, 2015

Our boys, the Proteas, have recently departed for Australasia where they will do battle on the field, in the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, from mid-February.

South Africa, being a proud cricketing nation, has high expectations for the men in green and gold.

However, before and during every cricket world cup, a demon from the shadows of our past continues to creep up to us, to draw out the skeletons from our shameful closet where a green and gold outfit, from a bygone day, hangs up and collects dust.

It is a haunting moment in cricketing history which did not only affect the individuals and team involved, or the nation for that matter, but the entire world of cricket; shaking its foundations to the very core.

17th of June 1999, “a day which will live in infamy,” – words which are as applicable then as they were in December of 1941 when President Roosevelt announced the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour  bore witness to the shocking news of defeat which struck from Edgbaston, Birmingham, England, when Australia claimed victory over a South African side almost destined for greatness; almost...

As many would argue, a good cricketing day in England is an “adequate” one, and that day claimed such a title, but only weather-wise.

The battle would begin with Australia being sent in to bat first, with the might of Gilchrist, the Waugh brothers and Ponting eagerly awaiting their moment to have at the Proteas.

The first innings would see ups and downs with several ducks and two half centuries by Michael Bevan and Steve Waugh, before culminating in a bowled-out total of 213 runs. To have been able to witness the precision of Shaun Pollock and the almost-mythical swing of Allan Donald was a gift in itself.

The total seemed comfortably manageable, and the Proteas had their sights set on absolute victory. But the cricketing gods had already carved the side’s fate into the very pitch that the Proteas would march onto.

The second innings would see just as many ups and downs with the legendary spin of Shane Warne creating havoc in the top order, the three run outs demonstrating the ruffled feathers of the Proteas, the half century of Kallis (who was luckily forgiven by a sitter that was dropped by Paul Reiffel) and Lance “Zulu” Klusener collecting one of the luckiest sixes in cricketing history when Raiffel dropped a connection by Klusener, with the South Africans already 9-wickets down, subsequently resulting in it bouncing off of his failed attempt and soaring over the boundary for the maximum.

Alas, the final over was there, with South Africa holding on to one-last wicket and needing to score 9-more runs off of the over. Australia had been bowled-out in their penultimate over and so the pressure was on. Klusener and Allan Donald would have to dig deep.

Damien Fleming charged down the line, his eyes and mind fixated on nothing but victory, and hurled a delivery at Lance Klusener. Four runs! “Zulu” had punished the ball as it flew to the boundary, sending the crowd into a roar. The ball that followed would once again find the ropes, putting the stadium into cheers that echoed across the United Kingdom. The scores were level, with 1-more run required for victory and with four-more balls to spare. “We can do it”, Donald and Klusener thought to themselves. “The game is ours for the taking.”

However, the very next ball was to send them straight back to reality, with Donald almost being run-out and once again creating the realisation that there were no more wickets to spare.

The third-last delivery would make its way to Klusener, and history would be written... The ball was tapped past Fleming, after which Klusener ran, charging down the pitch with a fiery fury. However, Donald remained stationary, showing content with his positioning relative to the ever-changing position of “Zulu”. Mark Waugh collected and flung it to Fleming, who proceeded to roll it to Gilchrist for the stumping.

Upon sudden realisation, wrapped in confusion, catching up to Allan, it was too late... His attempts to run to the other side, having already dropped his bat, were futile. Australia had won.

The “Aussies” would progress to the final, where they comfortably defeated Pakistan, and lifted the greatest cup in the game of cricket.

In the words of George Santayana: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

As the team prepares to chase the Cup, may they remember that moment, as painful as it may be for many, so that they may continuously learn and build from it in the future.

Good luck Proteas!

 

Image courtesy of: www.cricketdawn.com