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June18, 1999


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Great one-day game!

Sanjay Manjrekar

Lance Klusener played like god throughout the tournament, until the last ball, which proved he was human after all.

Now please do not take your daggers out for the South African all-rounder. What he did, when he went for that nonexistent single, was human, only human.

It's quite easy to sit in the commentary boxes, stands or the living room, and pass judgements on players after the game. But I can assure you, when you have a close game like this, and that too in the World Cup semi-final, it just goes beyond all commonsense, and in the end, the team that was supposed to win wins it.

Many will, no doubt, especially after the result, start singing the praises of Australia, as to how it was the stronger team mentally and how well they held their nerves in the match. But let's face it, at the outset, the game was a tie. Nobody won it. Australia went through on technicality. Paul Reiffel dropped two catches in the closing stages. Only one reason for it, nerves. Why, even that last run-out was actually a miss by Mark Waugh in the first instance. And, isn't Mark Waugh supposed to have the best hands in the team. So, there you see, at the end, everybody out in the middle was a bundle of nerves. Great one-day game, but with a tragic end for the South Africans.

Australia had to depend heavily on the services of two of their great cricketers to pile some early pressure on the formidable South African outfit. Steve Waugh, with the bat, and Shane Warne, with the ball. I often wonder why many are shy to use the adjective 'great' before Steve Waugh's name. I think he has done enough by now to be acknowledged as the very best. One who is right up there with the Laras and the Tendulkars.

As Ian Chappel rightly said, he looks, and also believes himself, to be invincible against the South Africans. The Aussie skipper has an excellent record against the Proteas, which reaffirms his greatness. It used to be the West Indies earlier, now it is the South Africans who are the real test at the international level.

Shane Warne strikes in the semis, Australia qualify for the World Cup final 1996. Shane Warne strikes in the semis, Australia qualify for the World Cup final 1999. Great cricketers pick the big games to make a mark. Warne has done just that. There is no doubt that he is not the same bowler he was three years back. But even though not his best, he was good enough for the South Africans. They really aren't a spinner friendly batting side. An exemplary spell of leg spin bowling saw the Aussies coming back into the game after not scoring enough.

Coming to the closing stages of the game, one saw two giants of world cricket trying to match each other. Very little to choose between the two. South Africa had a slight edge, and that edge was Lance Klusener. This guy has been quite amazing. His power hitting in this World Cup has clearly shown how quickly the game is changing. You are getting to see shots being played these days (more from Lance Klusener than anyone else), which were never seen earlier. Quite revealing. A man, having an incredible run with the bat, had to come out yet again in a crisis, expected to bail his team out once again. What would you expect?

C'mon, it's impossible for someone to do it every time. The famous law of averages have to catch up with him. Isn't it? No, he repeats his blitz. This time, though, falling short. Lance Klusener's exploits with the bat will be an everlasting memory from this World Cup. Two very evenly matched teams threw up the right result - a tie.

Australia had a player like Steve Waugh in their side as opposed to their opponents. In the end, that was the difference that has seen Australia go to Lord's. If not for that phenomenal innings, of 120 not out at Headingley, by the Australian captain, one would have easily seen a South Africa - Pakistan final. No one would have disputed the worthiness of those finalists either.

South Africa can now take solace from the fact that yes, they did not win the cup, but they surely did win a lot of hearts. But watching Hansie Cronje in that post match interview, hearts are just not good enough. Is it, Hansie?

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Sanjay Manjrekar

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