World Cup Timeline

Daryll Cullinan: 'That was the birth of the chokers tag'

Daryll Cullinan remembers feeling stunned at the end of the tied 1999 World Cup semi-final

Daryll Cullinan
Allan Donald is run out and the game is tied, Australia v South Africa, 2nd semi-final, World Cup, Edgbaston, June 17, 1999

South Africa ran out of steam at the end  •  Getty Images

We started off quite well with four wins to kick off the tournament. But then we seemed to have a dip halfway through, and that was where the 1999 World Cup turned for us.
It was a long World Cup and we realised we were probably going to lose one or two matches along the way, but it was all about the timing of when we lost.
Our first defeat was against Zimbabwe. It cost us later, when the points would have made a difference. Then we won the next two, including against New Zealand in Birmingham, where we handled the conditions well, before we lost again to Australia. We didn't feel too bad about that because we were beaten by a brilliant one-day innings from Steve Waugh, and that was that.
We were given three days off before the semi-final. I don't know if that had an effect, because we always backed ourselves to beat Australia in that game. By that stage of the tournament, the pitches had started to dry out. We knew that because of how Edgbaston had played during the New Zealand game. We were prepared.
But on the day, there was something quite puzzling, in that after we won the toss we bowled first. We had Jacques Kallis and he was bowling really quickly and swinging the ball upfront, so maybe the decision was based on getting the best out of him. But it still seemed unusual in a big match like that. These days teams don't mind chasing, but back then it was still seen as quite a challenging thing. You'd prefer to have runs on the board. Bob Woolmer, South Africa's coach, had been the coach of Warwickshire. He said that in his time there, he probably only remembered about five occasions when the team batting second won the match. But we still bowled first.
It ended up not really being about that because we bowled well. It was only when we were chasing that things got interesting. I have never played in a game that was such a see-saw. Things were changing every five overs: they were in a good position, then we were in a good position. There was so much pressure and everything was at stake. A final at Lord's. Everything.
I remember thinking someone should run out onto the field with gloves or something like that - just stop the game for a little while
Then we got to the point where it seemed like we were going to get over the line even though we couldn't really sense it from the change room. The dressing rooms were behind closed doors, so as the game goes on, the players are actually a bit detached from the whole affair. But at one stage one of the Australians popped their heads in and said, "Well done."
When I was talking to Damien Fleming years later, he said Steve Waugh just sort of chucked him the ball and said, "Okay, get it over with."
We didn't know about that then but we could sense something was going on. In that final over, I was sitting with Woolmer, Gary Kirsten and Peter Pollock. I remember thinking someone should run out onto the field with gloves or something like that - just stop the game for a little while. But then we needed just the one run off four balls.
Afterwards I don't remember anything being said. It was just stunned silence. Not a word was spoken. The older guys obviously took it much harder, because we knew we would not get too many chances. I definitely didn't think there would be another World Cup for me. We knew a chance was gone. In 1996, inexperience cost us, but in 1999, we'd had a good run of one-day cricket and then we seemed to run out of steam in the end.
But we were very much a team and nobody needed to say anything. There was not a word of blame, because we understood it could have happened to any of us. In that situation, with that pressure, it could have happened to any of us. It was just such a day. Everything was just left there. I don't really know what happened afterwards, because I went to Bermuda for six months. But I think that was the birth of the chokers tag. And that was a genuine choke.

Daryll Cullinan played 70 Tests for South Africa between 1993 and 2001