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The morning after

The reaction to South Africa's record-breaking victory in the final one-day international against Australia

The South African players could hardly believe the result, neither could the country © Beeld
Once every decade there is a national, sometimes global moment, that everything's measured by. The fever and cricket mania that the unbelievable final one-day international generated in South Africa is unsurpassed by any sporting event, and that includes their rugby World Cup win in 1995. In years to come, everyone will know where they were as Boucher slammed the winning runs over mid-on's head.
"I had left work, came home, put my green's cap on, put on my Proteas' top and started waving my flag. It was do or die, I was going down with my team, and - oh my god." This was a taxi driver explaining why it took him so long to pick up his passenger. A bleary-eyed porter at the hotel said that he is working nights and was supposed to sleep through the day. But he couldn't and, as Herschelle Gibbs started swinging, his phone was keeping him awake with friends texting, ringing and screaming. He looked exhausted.
People in the crowd wept, unable to cope with the frenzied atmosphere and unable to believe they were there at the greatest one-day game ever. Tony Greig, back in his homeland (or is it his adopted country, or just the one he lives in) choked backed emotion. He loves seeing Australians get beat.
This is equal to the Ashes fever that swept through the UK in 2005. Everyone is talking cricket, it has lifted the mood of the country, there's a quiet satisfied grin on people just walking down the street. Cricket for this sport-mad country is one-day internationals and this extraordinary game was a culmination of an extraordinary series. If the Edgbaston Test was the last game of the 2005 Ashes, the effect would have been the same - grown men weeping.
This morning's newspapers, if you could find one as most shops sold out early, led with cricket, contained cricket in the centre pages and had cricket on the back. "Making history" screamed the Cape Times, a Cape Town broadsheet, with a fist-pumping Herschelle Gibbs pictured next to Makhaya Ntini being lifted onto Graeme Smith's shoulders. This was the front page - the crippling black-outs that have plagued the Cape for the last five weeks driven below the fold. The front page cartoon took pity on the victims of the piece: "I think this is a serious call for the establishment of the SPCB - The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Bowlers," suggested talking heads watching television.
The Cape's Daily Voice, a tabloid that makes the UK's Sun look like a balanced and serious take on the day's events, didn't hold back. "Gibbs leads the chase as Proteas whip Aussie ass," it shouted, and on the front page a bi-lingual headline that embraced the multi-cultural hero that is Gibbs, as well as being easy to understand: "Jou ma se 434 ... we'll just score even more."
But the editorial in the broadsheet has the last word, leading with the importance and the impact this game and series has had. "Cricket has been through a rough period, both on and off the field. There have been poor results, far too many changes of coach, controversies over quotas and targets, and administrative incompetence. But, with a dynamic young captain at the helm, the future of South African cricket has seldom looked brighter." Sport reflects life in this emerging and powerful country.

Edward Craig is deputy editor of The Wisden Cricketer