Players from the champion sides relive their World Cup journeys

'Pressure meant nothing to Warne'

1999, part three: Damien Fleming describes Shane Warne's unmatchable contribution to Australia 1999 World Cup campaign (00:00)

March 7, 2011


'Pressure meant nothing to Warne'

March 7, 2011

And there was no doubt that winning that game, even though it was so close, that we continued our edge over South Africa. We felt like they were very well-skilled and drilled team, which we felt we were as well. But we also would have liked to respect flair, particularly in big games, and that you can be too structured and not live in the moment. And sometimes it dictates against team plans, if you think commonsense and flair dictates other. Whereas, I always felt that flair wasn't a part of South Africa's game, and it was actually keeping to your structures continually. I think they looked up to us, they revered, and it was just another hurdle, so close to the game, they couldn't get over against us.

So going into the semi-finals, I felt like we had more confidence going in that game than South Africa. We batted first, and things didn't go our way. Shaun Pollock, who I don't think had a great tournament, all of a sudden got four or five wickets and ripped through our top order. We got fifties from Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan. Paul Reiffel had been knocked over by 95 mph inswinging yorker from Allan Donald. As we walked past each other, Pistol [Paul Reiffel] said, "watch out, he is swinging them in." As I walked past Donald, I said to myself, "You are not kidding anyone, I just watched it on the screen, I can see that they are going in." The top-order batsmen always say to you that get forward, no back lift, so you deaden the chance of getting knocked over. So the first ball, Donald is flying in, he releases it 95mph, I get on the front foot, no back lift, bat and pad so tight together for the inswinger, and he bowls the away swinger. So I miss it probably by three metres. I think there was a bit of laughter from behind the wicket by the South Africans. Second ball, I am not falling for that one, you set him up for an outswinger and bowl a big inswinger. He was lightning, Allan Donald. So once again, he released, I took just a step forward, bat and pad tight together, and just as I see the ball pitch and shape in, it sort of starts to go way and then all of a sudden I just see my off bail flying like that and I walk out. I remember sitting next to Paul Reiffel and saying, "Thanks for the advice mate, that really helped, he has got an outswinger as well." So I unselfishly got out second ball, Bevan continued on, but I think we felt like we were 20 or 30 runs short.

We needed early wickets, which we didn't get. Gibbs, and Gary Kirsten, who was a fantastic player, got going and they were none for 48. We needed someone to put their hand up, and someone did. As big as our captain Steve Waugh's hundred was against South Africa in the previous game, Shane Keith Warne, our vice-captain put his hand up. He might have had a quite tournament till then, and he bowled some Mike Gatting deliveries to knock over Gibbs, Kirsten and Cronje. It was unbelievable. And I still remember how pumped he was as he ran in. That's the great thing about Warnie, pressure meant nothing to him. He actually thrived on it and he was actually thriving again in the semi-final.

I think there were more doubts about Shane Warne coming in the tournament from himself. There was no doubt that he was really hurt from getting dropped for the last Test there. He bowled pretty well in the one-dayers in the West Indies. But there was something nagging to him, he was still coming back from the shoulder surgery. He was really hurt by not playing and he was still dealing with that during the World Cup, and the bowling was probably not coming out as well as he would have thought because it was pretty good for fast bowlers and not as much for spinners. But he grew into the tournament a bit like Glenn McGrath, and when you want to peak, you want to peak at the top end. That's certainly what Warne did, and then from there, after Warne got his three or four wickets, it really went to and fro. Kallis looked like he was bating through, we would pick up the odd wicket, or suddenly there was a short partnership, and it was always looking close to being a thriller at the end.

I knew if it was getting down to the last over then I would have to bowl. I bowled the last over in 1996 World Cup semi-finals against West Indies and got through, though it was probably wasn't going to be a Courtney Walsh facing me this time. But I was still hoping it wouldn't get down to that. In the second last over, Lance Klusener was batting with Steve Elworthy [actually Allan Donald], and they still needed a lot of runs, and I was hoping that we would finish in that over, Glenn McGrath was bowling.

Lance Klusener, a freak of a batsman in one -day cricket, hit the ball to my mate Paul Reiffel at long-on, so I saw the ball all the way from backward square leg, and he got his hands up early. I thought, 'You luck bastard, Pistol you are going to take the catch, bit of a photo and we are into the final, if he takes this catch. Paul not only drops the catch but he hits it over the fence for a six. So that made it interesting where it was 10 runs to get with seven balls to go. Allan Donald was at the other end, and I was hoping like hell that Glenn McGrath would bowl a yorker but Klusener got a single to make it nine runs to win off the last over with one wicket in hand. And I had to bowl the last over.

Klusener was an amazing player because of his power. You've got to remember that the great thing about international cricket is that there are different conditions, different balls, different batsmen, different pitches everywhere. I used to like bowling at the death in Australia, where the Kookaburra ball would get old, get soft, you could get a bit of reverse-swing, you bowl your loopy slower balls, because on big grounds they were taking a punt to hit it out of there, so actually it was a good time to bowl at death.

In England in 1999, we were using the Duke ball. They retain their hardness, they didn't go reverse. The game before, I actually bowled a slower ball to Lance Klusener, but he got enough bat on it at Headingley to still go for six. It's not a big enough ground there, so a slower ball to Klusener wasn't probably a percentage ball.

We had also talked about plans to Klusener was to bowl yorkers, about 30cms outside off stump, and we came out with that plan the night before, so we didn't really get the chance to practice that. I was someone who used the stumps as an indicator for the yorkers, so if I was bowling to a right-hander I would try and visualise hitting the bail on the off stump, and because I used to drop the bowl around a little bit, particular after the shoulder rehab, with a little reverse-swing it will normally york leg stump. So I would do the same for the left-hander, aim at the leg stump and hopefully it would york off stump. When you are not looking at the stumps it was really hard to get your length, you didn't have the bail to get yourself down. But I was confident I could do that, I told the umpire that I am coming around the wicket. There was a massive roar from the crowd, not sure that the crowd was booming in, but knowing also the pressure of how many people were watching, and more than that ten of my team-mates said, "C'mon Flemmo," and I felt proud as I ran in for that first ball.

We had worked out that most of his runs were scored on the leg side, so we had to get the yorker outside off stump, which I thought I did pretty well, and it was pretty much on the money. And Lance Klusener hit it probably 500 miles into the cover fence, and he hit it that hard that it almost came back to me, which is a bit embarrassing. So all of a sudden there is a massive roar. Walking back now, five balls to go, five runs to get, one wicket in hand, had a quick chat with Steve Waugh about the plans, and about sticking to the plan. Ran in, tried to bowl the yorker outside the off stump, and this one was a little bit of half volley, I call it the Klusenator now. He hits it about a 1000 miles an hour, into the mid-off fence. Mark Waugh only has to move two metres, he doesn't even react, and it's a tie.

I could see everyone's head dropped, the crowd was going off. Klusener and Donald were very happy that it's a tie. And really that it's that time when it really hits, talking about structure and flair, and sometimes the commonsense has to overwrite team rules. I was very lucky that we had a captain in Steve Waugh, who loved team-mates to back themselves, and my first reaction was that I have bowl him out now, and I needed to be assertive. So I went to Steve Waugh, and said, "Mate, I am not comfortable coming around the wicket." And good on Steve Waugh, he said, "No problems, mate."

All along I really did want to come over the wicket. I told the umpire, and we brought in a ring field, so everyone was there to stop the single, and I noticed that Paul Reiffel is at second slip now, hoping that he doesn't get another catch, to be fair. I ran in and there was just a massive noise. I tried to visualise this yorker, and I get it wrong, I execute it poorly, and it's halfway down the pitch. The Klusenator now mis-hits for the first time, he hits it to the mid-on and he starts running. But I know Allan Donald is apprehensive because the run-out is on. Then my mate, Darren Lehmann, picks up the ball, the run-out is on, and he misses it, misses the stumps by a few centimetres. As I am walking back, I thought to myself that hopefully this is not our last chance to win the World Cup. So I go back for the fourth ball, I knew I was a little bit short so I had to look a little bit further up the stumps. And the interesting thing was that Donald and Klusener didn't communicate, they didn't talk. Now they still had three balls to bat, I know if I was batting with Steve Waugh or Michael Bevan, we would have just said, bat the next two balls, and if you can't hit through the inner ring field then we will just run off the last ball. But there was no communication, so pressure can change, whether the situation is batting or bowling.

So I ran in, almost a slow motion now, and I bowled a picture-perfect Yorker. My country needed me and I finally put my hand up, belatedly. Klusener mis-hits again now, and this time it goes to mid-off, and thank god to Mark Waugh. And Klusener is running like an elephant, I can visualise him now but Donald has stayed in the crease again because I wasn't far off from getting the ball. So Klusener running, Donald is in his crease and Mark Waugh fields beautifully, has a go at the stumps but misses, and I proceed to underarm the ball to poor Adam Gilchrist, and it's going about one centimetre an hour to poor Gilly. I would have had enough time to run behind it, it was going that slow. Then eventually he gets the ball and hits the stumps and it's reason that you play sport for, doesn't matter what level. That pure euphoria of getting through that game, knowing that we are in the World Cup final was amazing.

We are dancing like kids in a kindergarten playground, and it was just the most amazing feeling. No security in this World Cup so all of a sudden there are about 30,000 people, want memorabilia, so we are trying as many stumps as we can, but we wanted to protect ourselves so we make sure we can play the final. In the dressing room there was a real sense of relief. Half the guys were pumped, the other guys were really sensing the relief. I remember, I looked over at Paul Reiffel, he had his head down, he had dropped a catch, and I reckon he had his head down for at least half an hour, where he just letting it get out of his body. I went up to him and had a little chat, he was so relieved that we got through. Because knowing, or both of us really, we might have had to change our names and get a different passport, considering the profile we would have got, if we had lost that game and gone home.

For there other guys, there was a lot of euphoria. But it was interesting, after that 1996 semi-final, where we lost in the final, we went home, had a few beers and really let it out. We really felt like we got out of the jail. But none of that in this World Cup. We made it a point to start with the preparation for the Lord's final.

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