World Cup 1999, second semi-final

Australia v South Africa

Tim de Lisle

Toss: South Africa.

This was not merely the match of the tournament: it must have been the best one-day international of the 1,483 so far played. The essence of the one-day game is a close finish, and this was by far the most significant to finish in the closest way of all - with both teams all out for the same score. But it was a compressed epic all the way through, and it ended in a savage twist. The tie meant that South Africa, for the third World Cup in a row, failed to reach the final despite making much of the early running. The crucial fact was that Australia finished higher than them in the Super Six table, and that was determined by the obscurity of net run-rate. Many spectators were left baffled.

Klusener's brawn had powered South Africa to the brink of the final but, when he got there, his brain short-circuited. Only he could have smashed and grabbed 31 runs off 14 balls, cutting a daunting target down to a doddle: one needed off four balls, Klusener himself on strike, and a decent, experienced tailender at the other end in Donald. The bowler, 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. Klusener thumped the ball straight, and Donald, backing up too far, would have been run out if Lehmann had hit the stumps. The scare should have been a warning. But Klusener then repeated his straight biff and charged. Donald grounded his bat, dropped it, and finally set off, while the Australians were demonstrating the benefits of a recent visit to a bowling alley: Mark Waugh, at mid-on, flicked the ball to Fleming, who rolled it to Gilchrist, who broke the wicket, and South African hearts.

The rest of the match was studded with outstanding performances. When Australia batted, Pollock, finally finding the edge, was magnificently incisive. Donald twice took two wickets in an over. Steve Waugh and Bevan performed a repair job which showed first self-control, then controlled aggression. Kallis, carrying a stomach injury, bowled fast and tight, and held the batting together with a cool fifty. Above all, there was Shane Warne. The ball that bowled Gibbs was a miraculous replay of his most famous delivery, to Mike Gatting six years earlier. His first spell of eight overs went for only 12 runs. He pocketed three more wickets, and the match award. The game was the last as South Africa's coach for Bob Woolmer, whose blend of science and imagination had produced a 73 per cent success rate in one-day internationals. He deserved better than to go out on a technicality.

Man of the Match: S. K. Warne. Attendance: 19,639.

© John Wisden & Co