Top Performances

Warne mesmerises in classic

Jamie Alter
The greatest World Cup match, and it was a pudgy blond who shone brightest

Shane Warne
4 for 29 v South Africa, semi-final, 1999

Generations of grandkids will know of the greatest one-day match of all, and of the man who scripted it. It's the stuff of folklore: the bizarre last over, with the two boundaries hammered by Lance Klusener, the inexplicable mix-up with Allan Donald, the scores tied. But without a doubt, every soul who was at Birmingham that lovely day will say it was a pudgy blond's day.

Five months after a return from shoulder injury, Shane Warne bowled a spell uncannily reminiscent of the semi-finals of the 1996 World Cup, when victory had threatened to slip out of Australia's reach. South Africa, chasing 213 to walk into their first such final, were 43 for 0, with Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten looking good. Enter Warne.

With the second ball of his second over, he ambled in, tongue protruding. Eyes fixed firmly on Gibbs, he unleashed a beauty. It was mesmerising to watch live at the ground - it looped up, drifted away, landed in the rough outside leg stump, and fizzed past a dumbfounded Gibbs to clip off. The ball of Warne's ODI career. As canary-yellow bodies swooped in and embraced the red-faced bowler, the batsman stood in disbelief, refusing to acknowledge that he had been bowled.

Five deliveries later Warne floated another one up in the footmarks outside leg, Kirsten went down to sweep, missed and the ball hit off again. As he let out a war cry heard all the way back in Ferntree Gully, Warne was a sight to behold. Hansie Cronje lasted just two deliveries, as an attempted flick to the on side went to first slip - replays suggested there was no edge - and Warne had three wickets in eight balls.

Warne was taken off after eight overs, but every South African knew that he'd be back for 12 deliveries. The 43rd over was a quiet affair, but in Warne's final one, Shaun Pollock slammed a six and a four before stealing a single into the covers to bring Jacques Kallis, on 53 from 91 balls, on strike.

Warne tossed it up, Kallis checked his drive and sliced straight into the waiting hands of Waugh at cover. A spell of 4 for 29 had been completed. Warne's captivating display inspired his flagging team-mates, changing the mood in a way that only born champions could.