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The Electronic Telegraph 2nd Semi-Final: Australia v South Africa
Michael Henderson - 17 June 1999

Australia triumph at the brink of defeat

Australia (213) tied with South Africa

WE'VE seen just about everything now. After the first tied match in seven World Cups, and after far and away the best game of the current competition, Australia reached the World Cup final by the squeakiest means available. By virtue of finishing second in the Super Sixes, ahead of South Africa on run rate, they will play Pakistan at Lord's on Sunday.

Lance Klusner completes what would have been the winning run but Alan Donald is rooted to his crease

This was a magnificent game, which, quite literally, had something for everybody. Only dullards and knaves would glean nothing from such a feast. There was doughty batting by Steve Waugh and Jonty Rhodes; a display of immense courage by Jacques Kallis; overwhelming fast bowling by Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock; and superb out cricket by the finest fielding teams in the world.

Above it all, and let's shout it from the rooftops - Glory, glory, Hallelujah! - there was a performance by Shane Warne that people will talk about when they are old and grey and nodding by the fire. Combining the brilliance and bravery that is granted only to the great, he took hold of this match when it was drifting away from Aust- ralia and enabled them to win it. Hooray for Warne, and hooray for cricket- lovers everywhere. He was sensational.

Australia didn't just win; they broke South Africa's hearts, and it would be the meanest of spirits who did not sympathise with Hansie Cronje's players last night. Twice in a week they have lost dramatic matches to Australia with two balls to spare. They could have given no more and yet, it wasn't enough. When it comes to the important matches Australia still have the beating of them.

For Lance Klusener, who was implicated in the final wicket, the evening sunshine must have seemed as gloomy as the darkest cavern. He made 31 from 16 balls in that blistering manner and, as he does so often, he left the field undefeated. To drag his team level on runs, and then to lose as they did, was unbearably cruel.

That closing passage of play was almost too intense to take in. South Africa, who needed 18 from the last two overs, with three wickets in hand, lost two of them when Glenn McGrath ripped out Mark Boucher's middle stump and Paul Reiffel's return from long-on was deemed, after David Shepherd referred the decision to the third umpire, to have beaten Steve Elworthy.

At that point South Africa needed 16 and Klusener immediately belted six, through Reiffel's hands on the long-on boundary, and then pinched the strike. It was now nine from the last over. Damien Fleming had finished an unnervingly tight semi-final against West Indies in Chandigarh three years ago by bowling Courtney Walsh. How would he stand up here?

The 'Zulu' smote the first ball through cover for four, a vicious stroke. He found a withering drive for the next ball: four more through extra cover. The scores were level. Steve Waugh brought all his fielders in, and the third ball almost brought a run-out when Darren Lehmann, gathering at mid-on and aiming at the non-striker's stumps, missed by inches.

Klusener drove the next ball to mid-off, where Michael Bevan fielded. He relayed it to Fleming, who rolled it to Adam Gilchrist. Donald, hopelessly short of safety, was out. South Africa were out. Australia, to their barely contained stupefaction, were through and their players congregated to dance a triumphant jig.

What a shame that it had to be Donald, on his home ground. Nobody could have bowled much better as he took four wickets, two in his first over and two in his last. Pollock bettered him by one, topping and tailing the innings. Kallis did them proud, too. Playing with a stomach strain that kept him out of the first meeting between the sides at Leeds, he bowled a full complement of overs, and made 53 to repair an innings devastated by Warne's trickery.

What can possibly be said to men like these? And what can be said to Herschelle Gibbs, who shelled that catch at Leeds in an act of premature celebration, and then watched Steve Waugh win the game with an unbeaten hundred? That was punishment enough, but to get a snorter from Warne yesterday marks him as one of the damned.

Pitching outside leg- stump, and hitting the top of off, the delivery left Gibbs utterly confounded. Gary Kirsten, sweeping, was bowled in Warne's next over and Cronje was caught at slip, apparently off his boot. If he was unlucky, it was still intoxicating to watch a master at work.

Two masters, in point of fact. When Australia needed high definition performances they got them from their captain, at Leeds, and again yesterday, and from the most brilliant bowler of the age. Warne has endured a lot of stick in this competition from braying half-wits. He kept his counsel, and at his leisure supplied a gloriously emphatic answer.

This was a great game of cricket, and it was won by a great player. He is back on the big stage, and Sunday can't come quickly enough. What was he singing last night? A number from another wandering minstrel's back pages, of course: ``Ah, but I was so much older then. I'm younger than that now.''

More: Australia run out winners after match ends in tie

Peter Deeley

Australia claimed their place in the World Cup final yesterday by emerging victorious in one of the most dramatic finishes in the history of one-day international cricket.

When the Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist ran out the South African's last batsman, Allan Donald, with two balls remaining, the game was tied with both sides having scored 213 all out. However, Australia went through because they had finished ahead of South Africa in the Super Six stage. The thrilling finish to the semi-final at Edgbaston was even more exciting than when the two countries last met on Sunday.

It was set up by a spell-binding performance by the Australian spinner, Shane Warne. He was named man of the match for taking three wickets at a crucial stage of South Africa's innings. But the South African all-rounder Lance ``Zulu'' Klusener bludgeoned his side back into contention, until they needed one run off the last four balls before the fatal mix-up with Donald.

Steve Waugh, the Australian captain, described the match as ``the great escape'', and said he was sorry that South Africa had to go out. His opposing number, Hansie Cronje, said: ``It can be a very cruel game, as we discovered here.''

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk