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The Barbados Nation 2nd Semi-Final: Australia v South Africa
Tony Cozier - 17 June 199

Awesome Aussies

Another titantic battle between Australia and South Africa, the two most consistent, disciplined and evenly matched teams in world cricket, ended in a heart-stopping, and unique, tie in their World Cup semi-final at Birmingham yesterday.

It took the tournament regulations to separate them and determine that Australia would go to the final against Pakistan at Lord's on Sunday. It now has a lot to live up to after the first tie in World Cup history.

Ironically, it was Australia's win over the South Africans with two balls left in a similarly dramatic match at Headingley last Sunday that not only kept them in the hunt but also put them ahead in the final Super Sixes table, the decisive factor in such a rare case.

In a frenetic climax to a tense, low-scoring contest, the Cup's most feared hitter, the left-handed intimidator, Lance Klusener, clubbed the first two balls of the final over from Damien Fleming to the cover and mid-off boundaries to bring South Africa level with Australia's 213.

Allan Donald at the opposite end was Klusener's only remaining partner but, with only a single required to seal the coveted place at Lord's and Klusener in strike, a South African win appeared the likeliest result. By now thought processes had been scrambled by rising blood pressure and strange happenings followed.

Off the third ball, Donald, South Africa's most experienced player, backed up too far on Klusener's push to mid-on and only Darren Lehmann's underarm throw at the stumps from five yards saved him as he scrambled back.

The field, fast and keen all day, had been closed in by Steve Waugh to block the necessary run but Klusener risked it all the same off the fourth ball. He pushed one past Fleming but, as he sprinted down the pitch, Donald was facing the other way, keen only to regain his ground after his previous scare.

By the time he realised what was going on and made for the opposite end, minus his bat, the ball was collected by Fleming and rolled along the pitch to wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist. As he broke the stumps with Donald several metres away, the Australians exploded into spontaneous celebrations.

Steve Waugh termed it ``the best cricket match I've played in'' and Man of the Match Shane Warne said it just surpassed Australia's final over victory over the West Indies in the last World Cup semi-final in India in 1996 when Fleming also bowled the last over.

The South Africans, on the field, in the dressing room and around the ground, were visibly crestfallen. A convoluted rain-rule denied them a place in the final in Australia in 1992 and the West Indies spoiled their party in Pakistan in 1996 when, as now, they were favourites.

Now they had not been beaten - their record against Australia is still 19-19 - yet still lost. They now have to wait until 2003 when they themselves will host the eighth World Cup for another chance to prove they are the best.

As they did five days earlier, the teams scrapped throughout like alley cats in a desperate fight towards the coveted Cup. It frayed the nerve ends of the combatants on the field, the 20 000 in the stands and, doubtless, the millions watching and listening in the four corners of the earth.

As he has been repeatedly throughout the tournament, Klusener was at the hub of it with his flailing, three-pounds of willow.

When he joined the battle at 175 for six to face the last ball of Shane Warne's final over, the 46th, 39 were needed off 25 balls to reach the winning target of 214.

Only a week ago, Warne was so concerned with his bowling he consulted a sports psychologist. Now he energised his team with an amazing first spell of 8-4-12-3 that mesmerised the South Africans and forced them to regroup after a comfortable opening partnership of 48 between Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten.

Introduced as early as the 13th over, Warne spun sharp leg-breaks from a dry, encouraging pitch, hitting the top of Gibbs' off-stump from outside leg, gaining umpire David Shepherd's favour for a catch to slip off South African Hansie Cronje that only slow-motion, magnified television replays showed to be off the boot.

Suddenly, it was 53 for three and soon 61 for four in the 22nd over when Daryl Cullinan, lingering on Jacques Kallis' call for a single to midoff, was run out by Michael Bevan's direct hit.

As Steve Waugh and Bevan had to do earlier for Australia, Jacques Kallis, strangely demoted from his usual No.3 to 5, and Jonty Rhodes carefully repaired the damage. They spent 19.1 overs adding 64.

Eventually accelerating, Rhodes pulled one of off-spinner Mark Waugh's many full tosses for six but was caught at deep mid-wicket off the same stroke off Paul Reiffel.

Warne came back and had an eventful final over that cost 14, included a missed catch by Reiffel at long-off off Kallis, a six by Shaun Pollock and the scalp of Kallis for 53 (92 balls) off the fifth ball.

Fleming accounted for Pollock, Glenn McGrath bowled Mark Boucher and Steve Elworthy was run out attempting a second, leaving Klusener to complete the job. He almost did.

Australia's innings had followed a similar pattern although their problems were posed by the pace of Pollock, Donald and Kallis, as always supported by slick ground fielding, in the absence of a single spinner.

Pollock had the first, and most crucial, of his five wickets off the fifth ball of the first over that rose to touch Mark Waugh's gloves on its way through to the keeper. It removed a class batsman to whom Australia looked for the lead.

Donald followed suit by having the threatening Ricky Ponting caught at extra-cover for 37 with his first ball, in the 13th over, and the left-handed Darren Lehmann with his sixth.

When Adam Gilchrist cut Kallis into third man's lap to make it 68 for four in the 17th over, Steve Waugh and Bevan were again obliged to perform their usual rescue act.

They went so carefully that they scored only 20 between the 20th and 30th over against the accuracy of the lively Kallis and Donald.

Eventually, Waugh opened out, hitting Klusener straight for 4 and 6 in the 34th over, dominating a stand of 90 from 22.3 overs with Bevan and threatening to repeat his great hundred of the previous Sunday.

But Cronje brought back Pollock in the 39th over who straightaway accounted for Waugh for 56 (76 balls, one six, six fours) and Tom Moody in his first over.

The left-handed Bevan skilfully controlled the remainder of the innings, enhancing his reputation as a finisher, getting useful support from Warne in a partnership of 49 and not falling until the last over for 65 (101balls, five fours), Pollock's fifth wicket.

At the time 213 seemed inadequate and even more so as Gibbs and Kirsten settled in. But typically, the Australians never said die.

Source: The Barbados Nation
Editorial comments can be sent to The Barbados Nation at nationnews@sunbeach.net