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The Electronic Telegraph 9th Super Six Match: Australia v South Africa
Michael Henderson - 13 June 1999

Waugh's masterful display

Australia (272-5) bt South Africa (271-7) by 5 wkts

If ever an innings was born of necessity it was the one Steve Waugh played yesterday. Win the match, and Australia were through to the semi-finals of the World Cup. Lose, and they were going home. It was a contest for which their steel-eyed captain was forged. He fashioned a superb hundred, only his second in 266 one-day internationals, and, breathlessly, they prevailed with two balls to spare.

Knowing what the world knows about this exceptional cricketer it is still difficult to exaggerate the character of this innings, or its high quality. Australia were 48 for three when he joined Ricky Ponting in the 12th over, a long way from the 272 South Africa had set them. The fact that they lost only two more wickets, while Waugh hit an unbeaten 120 from 110 balls, tells the story in plain terms. What it cannot do is convey the mastery of his batting.

It should have laid to rest forever the nonsense that he is the Roundhead to his brother's Cavalier. Some of the strokes he improvised here on an uneven pitch will not be found in any manual, but cricket has never been played in a book. It was a vivid exhibition of aggressive batting that even Mark could not have bettered and, when he punched the air after making the winning hit, it was the gesture of a satisfied man.

Together with Ponting, who made 69, Waugh added 126 in 23 overs for the fourth wicket. Then Michael Bevan shared another 73 runs, before Tom Moody played a valuable hand at the end. No other match in this World Cup had gone into the final over, and it was the fifth highest winning total in the history of the competition. Waugh, naturally, was named man of the match.

Yet South Africa, who will meet their victors in the second semi-final, at Edgbaston on Thursday, will rue the chance they let slip of eliminating a team they have such difficulty in subduing. They reprieved Waugh on 56, when the Australians were 120 short of their target, and the offender was one of the two best fielders in a side that is not short of good ones.

When Waugh clipped Lance Klusener to midwicket, Herschelle Gibbs took the catch - or so he thought. However, in trying to throw up the ball in celebration, it fell to the ground and he could not therefore claim to have completed it cleanly. It was an unpardonable lapse, and at a stroke undid much of his good work earlier, when he made 101.

What a fool Gibbs made of himself. In future he may be more prudent. There is far too much of this indiscriminate hurling of the ball when a catch has been taken or, in this case, not. It serves little purpose except to remind the batsman, in a showy way, that he is out. It was only a matter of time before a cocky player had his fingers burnt.

Waugh had swept one six off the left-arm spinner Nico Boje before his reprieve as he moved to his half-century in 47 balls, and he fairly smashed Steve Elworthy into the crowd at midwicket for another, on his way to a hundred from 91 balls. There were 10 other boundaries, the best of them a square drive of lacerating power that was bouncing back from the advertising boards before Allan Donald had pulled up.

This show of strength compensated for the poor start to the innings. Elworthy bowled Adam Gilchrist in his first over with a ball that kept a shade low, and Mark Waugh was run out by Boje's throw when he responded to Ponting's call. Damien Martyn pulled Elworthy to the same fielder, who was playing instead of the injured Jacques Kallis.

Ponting, who almost popped up a catch to Shaun Pollock when he was six, and top-edged a freakish six shortly afterwards, lived dangerously at times. There were handsome strokes, like the pull on to the roof of the old pavilion off Elworthy, but he also enjoyed some moments of fortune. Never mind. This was no place for faint hearts and, between them, Ponting and Waugh got the innings going.

After Ponting pulled Klusener to mid-on Australia needed 98, which they brought down to 66 from the last 10 overs. Donald and Pollock bowled gamely at the finish and when Pollock began the last over the batsmen still had to find eight. Moody's slashed boundary square of the wicket accounted for four of them, and they were home.

It was on this ground three weeks ago that Australia found themselves, in defeat, against Pakistan, after a modest start to the tournament. To play Pakistan again, in the final next Sunday, they must now beat South Africa a second time, and they will draw comfort from their cricket in the Super Sixes, when they won all three games.

This was Waugh's 31st World Cup match, and if the Australians reach the final he will equal Javed Miandad's record of 33. His first century in the competition was a magnificent achievement, worthy of so accomplished a cricketer. No, go on, spit it out. For once the word is justified: great.

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