By the end of the 1999 World Cup semi-final between Australia and South Africa, easily acknowledged as one of the greatest ODI games ever played, even the normally ruthless Steve Waugh managed to find some sympathy for his opponents. The match at Edgbaston had turned more times than an insomniac before the last over of an addictive, and sometimes bizarre, contest.
South Africa opted to bowl and Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald fired to restrict Australia to 213, before Shane Warne turned conjurer to return with 4 for 29, a spell eerily reminiscent of the 1996 World Cup semi-final against West Indies that had lifted Australia to a stunning five-run win.
South Africa, chasing 214 to walk into their first World Cup final, were 43 for 0, with Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten looking good when Warne ambled in.
With the second ball of his second over, eyes fixed firmly on Gibbs, he unleashed the ball of his ODI career - one that looped up, drifted away, landed in the rough outside leg stump, and fizzed past a dumbfounded Gibbs to clip off. Five deliveries later, Warne floated another one up in the foot marks outside leg, Kirsten went down to sweep, missed, and the ball hit off again. 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.
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His return in the 43rd over was a quiet affair, but in Warne's final one, he got Jacques Kallis to slice straight to Waugh's waiting hands at cover for a fourth wicket. His heroics inspired Australia as they went into the last over with South Africa needing nine. Lance Klusener was at the crease with Allan Donald for company.
Klusener had cut a daunting target down to a near walk in the park: one needed off four balls. Damien Fleming, had only one thing going for him: he had bowled the final over that beat West Indies in the 1996 World Cup semi-final. Having let Klusener pummel consecutive fours to level the scores, he tightened up. Steve Waugh, knowing a tie would be enough, set a field that gave new meaning to the phrase "a ring saving one". After surviving a close shave off the third ball, Klusener charged at the next one. Donald grounded his bat, dropped it, and finally set off, while Mark Waugh, at mid-on, flicked the ball to Fleming, who rolled it to Adam Gilchrist, who broke the wicket, and South African hearts. The result was a tie, but Australia went through to the final on head to head at the end of the Super Six stage.
This article was first published in 2014