Great Moments

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

S Rajesh
No, it's Jonty and the moment that revolutionised fielding in world cricket
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South Africa's maiden World Cup campaign started off with a resounding win against the hosts Australia, but after defeats against New Zealand and Sri Lanka the picture wasn't so rosy any more. It became even bleaker when South Africa were restricted to 211 by Imran Khan and Co. The ridiculous rain rule did the South Africans a huge favour after Pakistan had started off confidently, as an asking-rate of 4.9 in 28 overs suddenly became 8.5 in 14. Pakistan's hopes of getting to the revised target rested largely on Inzamam-ul-Haq - who was in awesome form and had clattered 48 from 44 balls - and Imran Khan, who was well entrenched and had helped Inzamam add 85 crucial runs for the third wicket.

Moment
In the 31st over, Inzamam missed a heave to leg off Brian McMillan, but took off for a leg-bye even as Imran, the non-striker, took a couple of strides and then stopped. Jonty Rhodes had already made his mark in international cricket as an outstanding fielder but he chose this instant to conjure up one of the defining moments of the tournament. Sprinting in from a fairly deep backward point, Rhodes swooped down on the ball, grabbed it in his right hand - all the while closing in on the stumps - and then, ball in hand, charged madly towards the wickets even as Inzamam, who had already run one-third the way down the pitch, desperately tried to turn back and make his ground. An under-arm throw would have done the job, but Rhodes went for something far more spectacular and memorable: he threw himself at the stumps, both feet off the ground and body completely parallel to the ground. All three stumps were knocked to the ground, Inzamam was marginally short of the crease, and for a moment, South Africa had Superman in their line-up.

Boundary view
You'd have thought that Jonty's team-mates would have been used to his exploits in the field, but this run-out was clearly out of the ordinary. "I was appealing for lbw," says McMillan, "but out of the corner of the eye I saw Jonty diving in. I'd never seen a bloke dive at the wickets ever before." Rhodes himself had a simple explanation for his action: "There was a 50% chance that I'd hit the stumps if I threw, and a 100% chance of hitting the stumps with ball in hand. The fastest way I could cover the last metre and a half was head-first. It was just the right thing to do at the time."

What happened next
Pakistan needed 59 from less than six overs when Inzamam fell, and their plight became more dire when Imran fell in the next over. Rhodes' bit of magic had turned the game around, but he wasn't done yet: Ijaz Ahmed fell to another piece of brilliance, as Rhodes held on to a steepler while almost falling backwards. The rest of the Pakistan batting fell away, and South Africa rode on Rhodes' inspirational presence in the field to steal to victory by 20 runs.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo

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