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The quirky nature of these trilateral one-day competitions came through bizarrely when India, who did not secure a place in the final until the last over of the last qualifying game, won the Titan Cup by soundly beating South Africa, who had won all six of their qualifying matches by solid margins.
For South Africa, it was an unfortunate repeat of their experience in the World Cup, when they won all five qualifying matches only to be eliminated in the quarter-finals. It meant that they had won 11 of their 13 one-day matches in India and Pakistan in 1996, but no trophy. For India, it meant the usual: lionisation and a showering of wealth for the players, a new halo for their captain, Sachin Tendulkar, and instant forgiveness for their mediocre form in the qualifying games, where they were comfortably beaten three times by South Africa and, though they beat Australia twice, did so unconvincingly.
Australia did not win a single match. They lost to South Africa three times and twice threw away winning positions against India (their other fixture was washed out). Following their defeat by Sri Lanka in the Singer World Series final in September, it amounted to Australia's worst losing streak in one-day cricket. Yet, if they had beaten India as they should have done in their last match, they would have made the final - and, given the importance of the toss in the final, would have stood a good chance of winning the Cup.
As it was, India went through, won the toss and batted first, then, as the pitch died in the clammy night, kept luckless South Africa to 185. The last act was symbolic: the Man of the Series, Donald, batting for only the second time in a one-day international in 1996 (such was South Africa's dominance, he hardly needed to) was bowled first ball by Kumble, the Man of the Final.
Match reports for
6th Match: India v Australia at Cuttack, Oct 27, 1996
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