Steve Waugh's true grit sees Australia home
by AFP

Event:ICC World Cup 1999

DateLine: 24th February 2007


Steve Waugh's Australians held their nerve to lift the 1999 World Cup in England, while South Africa continued to grapple with their fate.


South Africa were eliminated in the 1992 Cup semi-final because of a 'rain rule' that had reduced their target to an absurd 21 runs off one delivery against England.


In 1999, South Africa failed to qualify for the final despite not losing their semi-final against Australia - they tied their epic semi-final before bowing out on inferior net run-rate to Australia in the Super Six.


The 1996 format of playing quarter-finals straight after the group games was abandoned. Twelve teams were now divided into two groups, with the top three advancing to the Super Six.


Each Super Six side carried forward the points gained from matches played against fellow-group qualifiers. Then, each Group A team played each of the Group B qualifiers, with the top four moving into the last four.


The tournament also saw a sizeable presence of Asians at various grounds and it looked as if it was a home away from home for India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.


Australia advanced to the Super Six without a point as they had lost to fellow-qualifiers Pakistan and New Zealand in group games. Just one slip at this stage could have sent them back home.


It nearly came in their last Super Six match against South Africa at Headingley chasing a stiff 272-run target, but luck was with them.


Steve Waugh was on 56 when he offered a simple catch to South African century-maker Herschelle Gibbs, who held the ball before dropping it in premature celebrations.


The gritty Australian captain needed just that slice of fortune to steer his team to a crucial win with an unbeaten century.


South Africa had lost an opportunity to knock Australia out of the competition. Instead, they themselves went out of the tournament after the tied semi-final against the same opposition.


They required nine to win off the last over, with Lance Klusener at the crease. It soon became one to win off the last four balls after Klusener smashed paceman Damien Fleming for two successive fours.


Australia showed they were made of sterner stuff.


No run came off the third ball after Waugh had set a single-saving field. Klusener connected the fourth and charged for a single, but Allan Donald apparently did not hear the call.


Donald responded late, dropped his bat on the way and was yards out of the crease when wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist broke the stumps and South African hearts.


The final was an anti-climax, with Australia thrashing Pakistan by eight wickets. Leg-spin magician Shane Warne grabbed four wickets in what turned out to be his last World Cup match.


Steve Waugh said the "inner strength" was the key to his team's success after a struggling start. Australia had lost two of their first three matches before winning seven in a row.


The Australian captain also had players to deliver under pressure, like his twin brother Mark, Warne and ace paceman Glenn McGrath.


South Africa brought an innovation into the game which was promptly ruled out of the rest of the tournament by the organisers.


Coach Bob Woolmer communicated with skipper Hansie Cronje and paceman Donald who wore earpieces on the field to pick up the coach's instructions on a one-way radio system during their opening match against India.


Klusener, with his amazing big-hitting, emerged as one of the stars along with Pakistani paceman Shoaib Akhtar, who said he would love to bowl at 100 miles per hour and was involved in fascinating duels with batsmen.


India broke the monotony of low-scoring games, with Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid adding a record 318 against Sri Lanka and Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar putting on 237 for the third wicket against Kenya.


The tournament was also not without surprise results, with Zimbabwe beating South Africa and Bangladesh defeating Pakistan in group matches. Pakistan were to face match-fixing allegations later.


South Africa were to run into rough weather again, as hosts in 2003.

(Article: Copyright © 2007 AFP)