Few observers believed that either England or Zimbabwe would pose any real threat to host country South Africa in the one-day tournament that followed the Test series against England, and so it proved. Hansie Cronje's team, whose one-day form was second only to Australia's, duly overcame the visitors, but it was drab fare. Most games were played on lifeless pitches that largely ruled out attacking strokeplay. There were no centuries, and the highest total in 18 innings was 233. Some close finishes provided entertainment, but for the most part this was a tournament best forgotten.
South Africa may have emerged victorious, but their progress was not always straightforward. After six qualifying matches, each team had won and lost two games: on net run-rate Zimbabwe were top and South Africa bottom. The South Africans picked up speed from there on in, though never quite fired on all cylinders.
Their most serious shortcoming was their top-order batting. With Daryll Cullinan having announced his retirement from one-day cricket before the tournament, with Gary Kirsten and Jonty Rhodes hopelessly out of touch and Cronje - hindsight might suggest - often seeming distracted and introverted, they were over-reliant on Jacques Kallis. He did all that was required of him, hitting 290 runs at an average of 48.33, and there was good support from Lance Klusener, even if his 225 runs were delivered at, by his standards, a restrained strike-rate of 70 per 100 balls. Shaun Pollock, taking 14 wickets at 15.64, carried the bowling almost single-handed after his long-term opening partner, Allan Donald, had been omitted, following his decision to cut back on his international commitments later in the year. South Africa's selection policy was apparently to build a squad for the 2003 World Cup.
England began in swashbuckling style when they brushed the hosts aside by nine wickets. Unused to such giddy heights, they returned to earth with a bump, losing their next two games, the first by a whisker, the second by a mile when Henry Olonga's six for 19 destroyed them. Revenge came two days later in the unassuming guise of Mark Ealham, who had half the Zimbabwean team trapped in front of their stumps. Nick Knight was England's most successful batsman with 258 runs at 64.50, casting doubt on his exclusion from the previous summer's World Cup, while Darren Gough was the tournament's leading wicket-taker with Pollock, averaging an even better 14.43 from his 14 wickets.
The last qualifying match, between England and Zimbabwe, effectively became a semi-final - or would have, had rain allowed play. England probably deserved to go through on run-rate, for Zimbabwe, who had struggled in subsequent tournaments to match their World Cup results, ultimately proved too erratic. Olonga's six-wicket haul apart, they did not have the ability to bowl opponents out. Neil Johnson prospered with the bat, but could offer little with the ball. Heath Streak, back after a knee injury, was at best tidy.
The tournament won, Cronje and his South African team set off for India and further success in the Test series there. What no one could have imagined was that the Standard Bank final against England would be Cronje's last home appearance for his country. In April, already under suspicion as a result of Indian police investigations into match-fixing, he admitted receiving between $US10,000 and $US15,000 from a bookmaker during the triangular tournament - ostensibly for forecasts on games in India - and was sacked. However, it emerged at the King Commission in June that Cronje had received the money, during the Centurion Test against England, to fix a qualifying match in this tournament if South Africa were sure of a place in the final.
Match reports for
9th Match: England v Zimbabwe at Centurion, Feb 9, 2000