1999 World Cup Australia Vs South Africa Semi-Final: The Greatest ODI Ever Played


Ever since the advent of the limited overs format in Cricket in the early 1970s, the age-old game with white uniforms, a red ball and 5-days of play evolved into something more exciting, energetic, and action-packed. There are countless ODIs already played on the international level but there’s one match that stands out in the plethora of limited overs format – The 1999 Cricket World Cup Semi-Final.


Australia took on South Africa for a berth in the 1999 Cricket World Cup finals on the 17th of June, 1999. Looking back at this epic clash now, it was a match between two of the best teams in the history of ODI cricket with several legends of the game featuring in it.

Let’s have a look at this encounter and what made it probably the best-ever one-day game.

Cricket World Cup 1999: The World Cup Of Legends

The 1999 World Cup organised by the ICC was held in England with 12 participating teams divided into two groups of six teams teach. Some of the biggest names and legends of the game today were playing this World Cup. It was a tournament where players like Sachin Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Kallis, Jonty Rhodes, Lance Klusener, Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Gilchrist, Warne, Mc Grath, Jayasuriya, Muralitharan, Aravinda De Silva, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Saqlain Mushtaq and Brian Lara had battled it out for their respective teams.

Group Stages of the World Cup

Three teams from each group were to qualify for the Super Six stage.  The Group A of the tournament had South Africa, India, Zimbabwe, England, Sri Lanka and Kenya. The Group B comprised Pakistan, Australia, West Indies, New Zealand, Bangladesh, and Scotland. The Group stages had seen a few spirited performances for Indians including Sachin’s 140* against Kenya after attending his father’s funeral and Sourav Ganguly’s 183 against Sri Lanka.
Both Pakistan and South Africa had emerged as the favorites in the tournament as Group-toppers and both teams losing just a single game in the group stages. India and Australia had managed to seal a spot in the Super Six stage despite two losses each owing to superior run rates. The two other teams to qualify for Super Six were Zimbabwe and New Zealand. The 1996 World Cup champions, Sri Lanka was eliminated in the group stage itself.

Super Six 

The Super Six stage saw some of the most memorable moments in Cricket history. India beat Pakistan in the Super Six while the Kargil war was being fought on the borders. It was one of the most heated encounters in the history of Cricket. Pakistan, however, qualified to the semis despite losses to India and South Africa in the Super Six stage as they 4 Points Carried Forward from the Group stage. Saqlain Mushtaq had claimed a hat-trick against Zimbabwe – the second in World Cup history.
South Africa had beaten Pakistan and New Zealand convincingly in the Super Six stage to qualify for the semi-finals and looked to sweep the tournament. Despite a victory against Pakistan, India disappointingly finished last in the points table while New Zealand managed to sneak into the semis. Australia had to beat South Africa in the final Super Six game to qualify for the semi-final. In the event of a South African victory, Australia would have made way for Zimbabwe.

The Aus Vs SA Super Six Encounter & The Dropped Catch

South Africa scored a competitive 271/7 with Herschelle Gibbs scoring a century. Australians were struggling in the chase at one time at 48-3 when Ponting and Steve Waugh came to the rescue. Captain Steve Waugh was dropped at 57 by Gibbs at short mid-wicket as Gibbs tried to throw the ball up into the air in celebration as it slipped through his fingers. Waugh reportedly said to Gibbs “You’ve just dropped the World Cup!” However, Waugh later denied this and told that he said to Gibbs, “Look, do you realize you’ve just cost your team the game.”  Steve Waugh went on to score 120 as Australia beat South Africa by 5 wickets with two balls to spare.

Australia qualified for the semis and had to face South Africa in the second semi-final of the 1999 World Cup. After winning all their Super Six encounters, Australia was placed second in the Super Six points table – above South Africa and below Pakistan

Semi-Final 2: Australia vs South Africa

Pakistan had already sealed a berth in the finals beating New Zealand in the first semi-final. The second final was all set to be a no-mercy game where the Proteas and Kangaroos were playing for a much-needed berth in the finals. South Africa won the toss and elected to field first.

Australian Innings

Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock tore in the Australian batting attack as they were reduced for 68-4. Steve Waugh came to the rescue again scoring 56 before Pollock and Donald came into the action. While wickets kept falling on the other end, Michael Bevan stayed till the very last over scoring a solid 65. As many as four batsmen were out for a duck including Mark Waugh. Shaun Pollock picked up 5 wickets and Donald sent 4 Australian batsmen to the pavilion.

South Africa had restricted Australia to 213 in this crucial encounter.

South African Innings

The Proteas were reduced to 61-4  in reply with Warne sending three batsmen to the pavilion.
Jonty Rhodes scored 43 off 55 balls before being dismissed while Kallis was batting at 53 and Pollock was at the other end. At 175-5 in 44.4 overs, South Africa had to score 49 off 32 balls for a victory.
Kallis was dismissed in this stage and Lance Klusener came to the crease. Lance Klusener started hitting boundaries on one end while wickets started to fall on the other.

South Africa entered the final over at 205/9 with Klusener at the crease, Allan Donald at the other end and 9 runs needed for victory.

The Final Over  

The bowler was Damien Fleming who had also bowled the last over against West Indies in the 1996 World Cup Semi-final. Needing 6 runs off the last 5 balls, Fleming had bowled Courtney Walsh to seal Australia’s place in the finals. This time it was against Klusener who had the reputation of hitting the best bowlers out of the ground.

Ball 1:  Klusener drove a full delivery for a 4.
Ball 2: Another full delivery, Another 4. Scores level
South Africa needed one run for a place in the finals. If the match was tied, Australia would enter the finals as it had finished above South Africa in the Super Six stage with the last victory against them.
Ball 3: Klusener hit a shot to Darren Lehman at mid-on. Allan Donald had backed up a long way down the crease at non-strikers end but Lehman’s throw at the stumps missed. Calamity avoided.

Commentator Mike Proctor remarked, “that could be the difference between a World Cup final berth or nothing.”


Ball 4: A similar delivery, hit to Mark Waugh at mid-off. This time Klusener went for the run, however, Allan Donald was watching the ball instead of heeding to his partner. Donald reacted late and eventually started running but by this time Waugh had thrown the ball to Fleming who rolled it along the pitch to Gilchrist, and the stumps were hit.Allan Donald was out, the match was tied and South Africa was out of the World Cup. 

Commentator Bill Lawry remarked, “There it is, this will be out surely – oh it’s out, it’s gonna be run out…oh, that is South Africa out – Donald did not run, I cannot believe it. Australia goes into the World Cup Final – ridiculous running with two balls to go. Donald did not go, Klusener came – what a disappointing end for South Africa. What a match for our viewers right around the world.”

Aftermath & Reactions

Australia & The World Cup

Australia went to defeat Pakistan in the finals by 8 wickets to win the 1999 ICC World Cup. They won all their games in the 2003 and 2007 World Cup and a World Cup defeat only came to them after 34 matches in the 2011 World Cup group stages against Pakistan. The 1999 World Cup also marked the domination of the Aussies in ODIs which continued for over a decade with them winning three consecutive World Cups.


South Africa & The Chokers Tag 

South Africa, on the other hand, hand continued their reputation for choking in World Cups. In 1992,  they lost to England in the semis when the DLW method after rains forced them to score 22 runs off the final ball. In 1996, South Africa won all their group matches but was knocked out by West Indies in the quarter-finals. In 2003, misinformation from the dressing room caused their exit from the group stages of the World Cup that was being played on their own home soil. In 2007, they were out for a paltry 149 in the semi-finals against arch-rivals Australia. More recently, the 2015 edition saw South Africa crash out in the semi-finals again in a close contest where GD Elliott hit a six in the penultimate ball off the innings as New Zealand edged past the Proteas.

People & Media 

The Australian Captain Steve Waugh called this match as “the best game of cricket I’ve played.” South African coach Bob Woolmer resigned after this match. He later revealed that Donald and his team-mates were in tears after the result.
British Daily, The Times rated South Africa’s choke in the semi-final as the second-biggest sporting choke of all time in 2010. EspnCricinfo also featured this match in the list of the 100 greatest Cricket matches played in the 20th Century.
Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, a cricket reference remarked: “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.”
In 2014, Klusener stated in an interview that it was he who decided to run the risky single despite the fact that there was no run. Allan Donald Donald was not to be blamed for what happened.


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