13 March 2006
The Wanderers Stadium, jam-packed with 32 000 fans, on Sunday witnessed what has been dubbed the greatest one-day international ever as South Africa edged Australia by one wicket, with one ball to spare, in the highest scoring and most explosive ODI in history.
Tied at two wins apiece, the Aussies and Proteas headed into the clash in Johannesburg knowing that to the winner of the contest would go the series spoils. No one could have had an inkling of the drama and spectacular hitting that was about to unfold.
Australian captain Ricky Ponting won the toss and elected to bat on the same ground at which he scored 140 not out in the World Cup in 2003. The openers, Adam Gilchrist and Simon Katich, immediately made Ponting’s decision appear a sound one as they raced to 97 before Gilchrist fell in the sixteenth over for a hard-hitting 55 off only 44 balls.
His dismissal brought Ponting to the crease. Together with Katich, Ponting put on 119 for the second wicket, before Katich fell for 79 off 90 deliveries in the thirty-first over.
Unfortunately for the South African attack, the departure of the left-hander failed to bring about any sort of reprieve as Mike Hussey joined his skipper in the middle.
They belted 158 runs in a stand lasting just 15.4 overs before Hussey was out for 81, struck off only 51 balls, and including nine fours and three sixes.
Ponting followed nine balls later, out in the forty-eighth over for an astonishing knock of 164 off just 105 balls. He clubbed 13 fours and nine sixes in an innings that superceded even his brilliant World Cup final effort.
By then, the Australians, on 407 for 4, had passed the previous highest score in a one-day international – the 398 for 5 scored by Sri Lanka against Kenya in the 1996 World Cup.
The agony wasn’t yet over for South Africa as Australia added a further 27 runs in the remaining 14 balls to finish on a world record 434 for 4 in their 50 overs. Andrew Symonds ended on 27 not out off 13 deliveries, while Brett Lee contributed nine off seven balls.
The bowlers’ figures were a mess: Makhaya Ntini finished with 1 for 80 in nine overs, Andrew Hall managed 1 for 80 in 10, Johan van der Wath conceded 76 in his 10 without success, Roger Telemachus claimed 2 for 87 in 10, and Jacques Kallis was smashed for 70 runs in just six overs.
The match appeared done and dusted: South Africa would need to bat at 8.7 runs per over to win, a task that appeared to be impossible. However, the Proteas weren’t about to concede the game and the series to the Australians.
South Africa suffered an early setback as fourth ODI centurion Boeta Dippenaar was sent packing for one in the second over, bowled by Nathan Bracken.
However, that brought Herschelle Gibbs to the wicket to join captain Graeme Smith, and with his arrival the fireworks evident in the Australian batting effort were once again unleashed.
In just less than 22 overs, the pair blasted 187 runs before Smith was dismissed for 90, scored off only 55 deliveries, caught by Hussey off the bowling of Michael Clarke.
Enter AB de Villiers who, seeing Gibbs in full flow, worked at turning the strike over to his senior partner. In only 8.4 overs they put on 94 runs before De Villiers was caught off the bowling of Bracken for 14 in 20 balls.
Gibbs was next to go, out on 299 in the thirty-second over, for a career-best knock of 175 from just 111 balls. His assault on the Aussie attack included 21 fours and seven sixes. However, his departure was a severe blow to South Africa’s stirring run chase.
Mark Boucher joined Jacques Kallis at the crease and they added 27 runs before Kallis was caught and bowled by Symonds for 20 at just over a run a ball.
Next in line for the Proteas was the big-hitting Justin Kemp, but he failed to fire, making 13 off 17 deliveries before becoming another Bracken victim.
With Kemp out on 355 for 6, it appeared South Africa’s challenge might stall, but the new man in, Johan van der Wath, had other ideas, bashing 35 off only 18 balls, including three timely sixes, before he fell to Bracken in the forty-seventh over with SA one run shy of 400.
Roger Telemachus headed for the middle to join Boucher and weighed in with a quick-fire 12 off six balls before being dismissed by Bracken.
The crux of the matter
That brought Andrew Hall to the crease with South Africa needing 12 to win off 10 balls.
In the final over, Boucher played Brett Lee down to third man for a single off the first ball. Hall then smashed the fast bowler over mid-on for four, which appeared to have lined SA up for a famous and unbelievable victory.
However, the very next ball, Hall was caught at mid-on attempting the same shot. That left the Proteas needing two runs to win from three deliveries, with last man Makhaya Ntini at the crease.
Lee roared in to the Border paceman, who played a deft guide down to third man to level the scores, igniting the crowd and the South African change room. Also, of vital importance, Ntini’s single brought Boucher on strike.
Again, Lee charged in and this time Boucher lifted him over mid-on for the winning runs and an astounding victory for South Africa. The wicketkeeper’s four took his score to an unbeaten 50 off only 43 balls. The boundary also sealed a three-two series victory for the Proteas.
The crowd erupted as people who had previously been strangers hugged one another and cheered for a description-defying victory that had courage written all over it.
South Africa’s players charged on to the ground, congratulating one another and thanking the crowd for their unwavering support. So passionate were the scenes that the win could easily have been mistaken for one that won the World Cup.
The Australians, too, milled about on the field, shell-shocked and disbelieving that they could have lost the game, but the scoreboard confirmed the South Africans’ triumph.
Like the Proteas’ attack, the Australians also suffered: Brett Lee picked up 1 for 68 in 7.5 overs, Bracken emerged with credit after bagging 5 for 67 in his 10 overs, Andrew Symonds claimed 2 for 75 in nine, and Mick Lewis set a world record worst by conceding 113 runs in his 10 overs.
Ponting and Gibbs were named joint players of the match, but the Australian captain, in a magnanimous gesture, declared that Gibbs should be the sole winner of the award.
Shaun Pollock, who missed the final contest through injury, was named man of the series. He topped the home team’s batting averages, scoring 160 runs at an average of 80, and at a devastating strike rate of 119.4 per 100 balls faced. He also led the bowling attack, claiming five wickets for 99 runs, while conceding fractionally over three runs per over.
On Thursday, the teams face off again in the first of three tests, at Newlands in Cape Town.