Australia vs South Africa 1999 World Cup - Most Thrilling ODI of All Time

The 1999 World Cup semi-final match between South Africa vs Australia at Edgbaston is one of the greatest ODI games of all time.

Umaima Saeed
Umaima Saeed

Last Updated: 2023-09-22

Dillip Mohanty

The 1999 Cricket World Cup was the seventh edition of the prestigious tournament. Held from May 14 to June 20, 1999, in England, the tournament featured 12 participating teams. The teams were divided into two groups of six. Each team played a round-robin format within their group, facing every other team once. The top three teams from each group advanced to the Super Six stage, where they played against the qualifiers from the other group. The top four teams from the Super Six stage progressed to the semi-finals, leading to the final at Lord's cricket ground in London. This was the first World Cup to be played in a round-robin format, followed by a Super Six stage and then the knockouts.

Australia emerged victorious in the final, defeating Pakistan to claim the title. This marked Australia's second World Cup win, with their first triumph dating back to 1987. The win further solidified their reputation as a cricketing powerhouse. Shane Warne, who was the joint-highest wicket-taker in the tournament, played a pivotal role as a spinner for the Australian team.

The tournament is also notable for Lance Klusener's exceptional all-round performances for South Africa and Rahul Dravid's consistent batting displays for India. However, the standout moment of the competition was the semifinal clash between South Africa and Australia at the Edgbaston, which has been etched into cricket history as one of the greatest ODI matches ever played.

Aus v SA 1999 WC SF GFX.png

Australia vs South Africa 1999 World Cup – A high-stakes showdown

The South Africa vs Australia semi-final in the 1999 World Cup is widely regarded as one of the greatest ODI matches of all time. It was a thrilling and closely contested encounter that kept fans on the edge of their seats until the very last ball. This match had everything a cricket fan could hope for, from exceptional individual performances to a dramatic conclusion. Australia had a star-studded lineup featuring legends like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh. South Africa, led by the indomitable Hansie Cronje, was a side brimming with talent, including the likes of Lance Klusener, Allan Donald, Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis. The clash of these two formidable teams created a cricketing spectacle that is fondly remembered by fans even today.

Australia batted first and scored a competitive total of 213 in Birmingham, thanks to half centuries from Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan. South Africa started the chase on a strong note, with Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten stitching together a first-wicket partnership of 48 runs. However, soon, South Africa found themselves in a precarious position at 61 for 4. The odds seemed stacked against them, but crucial knocks from Jacques Kallis (53) Jonty Rhodes (43), Shaun Pollock (20) and Lance Klusener (30*) turned the match on its head. Klusener's fearless hitting brought South Africa within touching distance of victory.

Nine runs were required off the last over with just one wicket in hand. Klusener hit Damien Fleming two boundaries off the first two balls of the over one to the covers and the other to log off to take South Africa closer to the winning line. The scores were tied. No run was taken on the third ball of the over as Darren Lehmann fielding on mid-on almost pulled off a run out chance in the non-striking end where Allan Donald was too far backing up . At this stage, South Africa needed just one run from three balls to win the match.

Klusener, facing the fourth ball of the over with just one run needed to secure victory for South Africa, struck the ball past the bowler, Damien Fleming, and took off for a single. However, the match took an astonishing turn when Allan Donald, the batter at the non-striker's end, did not hear Klusener’s call to take a run, and was instead closely watching the ball. He was late in taking off for the run, and Mark Waugh made the most of it by quickly throwing the ball to Fleming, who further threw it to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, who dislodged the bails to run-out Donald and help Australia make the final.

According to the rules at the time, the team that had finished higher in the Super Six stage of the tournament would qualify for the final. Australia had finished ahead of South Africa, so they progressed to the final, where they went on to defeat Pakistan. This controversial rule added an element of drama, making the match even more memorable.

Donald and Shaun Pollock took nine wickets between them for South Africa, while for Australia, Shane Warne was the wrecker-in-chief with a four-wicket haul.

Talking to _SAcricketmag_, Donald recalled how he faced backlash following the semi-final loss. , Donald said. 
>"My wife burned letters that were written to me, a lot of abuse was flying around. I had to deal with all of that and I had to deal with the guilt, so to speak, of not making that happen"

Speaking to the same publication, Klusener said that he didn’t feel guilty of not taking South Africa over the line, because chasing the target was not the job of the bowlers. 
>"I don’t [feel guilt] and I don’t think Allan should either,’ said Klusener. ‘It was never ever his job [to go bat], it probably wasn’t my job either. We only had to chase 213.”

South Africa has experienced its share of heartbreaks at the Cricket World Cup over the years, reaching the semi-finals four times, but failing to progress into the finals.

In 1992, the farcical rain rule left South Africa stunned and eliminated them from the final in a controversial manner. This was also the first time South Africa played in the World Cup. In 1996, they faced elimination in the quarter-finals in Karachi when Brian Lara's remarkable century for the West Indies proved to be the deciding factor.

The 1999 semi-final, was one of the most heartbreaking losses at the World Cup for South Africa. They reached the semi-finals again in 2007, but were outplayed by Australia. In 2011, they lost the quarter-final to New Zealand, before losing to the same team in the semi-final of the 2015 World Cup.

As South Africa prepare for the 2023 Cricket World Cup, they will not only aim to make it to the knockout stage but also aspire to break the curse that has haunted them in the past and reach the final.

Umaima Saeed
Umaima SaeedSports Writer

Umaima Saeed is a professional sports writer whose articles have been featured in several leading websites. She writes long-form content on sports, particularly cricket. She has a penchant for telling human-interest stories. Umaima has contributed articles on cricket to more than a dozen publications, both in print and online.