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A match full of the paralysing, see-sawing zing of true competition
October 8, 2009
Tom Graveney and John Murray, The Oval 1966; Derek Underwood, The Oval 1968; Graeme Pollock and Garry Sobers, The Oval 1970; Bob Massie, Lord's 1972; Bob Willis, Headingley 1981; Muttiah Muralitharan, The Oval 1998; Angus Fraser and Robert Croft, Old Trafford 1998; Brian Lara, Bridgetown 1999; Ricky Ponting, Jo'burg 2003; Kevin Pietersen, The Oval 2005. Surnames, venue and year sufficient for instant, heady replay.
All gave immeasurable joy, the object of all trivial pursuits, yet each was a one-sided performance, whether of genius, beauty, skill or escapology. Where was the electrifying, paralysing zing of true competition that keeps you rooted to your seat, awe, certainties and emotions swaying this way and that for hours on end, defying all entreaties from family and bladder? Cue the 1999 World Cup semi-final at Edgbaston. In its entirety.
From the fifth ball, when Shaun Pollock ejected Mark Waugh, the batsman of the tournament, predictions were a mug's game. The momentum switched six times in Australia's innings alone - 3 for 1 to 54 for 1 to 68 for 4 to 158 for 4 to 158 for 6 to 207 for 6 to a barely defendable 213 all out. The reply all but obliterated the memory as it was being downloaded.
Final over, last pair together, nine to get, player of the tournament on strike. Successive fours from Lance Klusener and it was one from four balls. Then came the comedy and, for South Africa, uniquely in the game's annals, the tragedy of a tie.
That night, my father died. Reporting this match had been my excuse for not being at his side. Having steeled me in the importance of joy, he would forgive me for confessing that regrets proved only fleeting.
Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of BrightonFeeds: Rob Steen
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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