There have many cricketing rivalries that captivate the fans to this day. Ashes series certainly creates euphoria of another kind when England take on Australia in a five-match Test series for the Urn. The high-voltage clashes between Pakistan and India see over a billion glued to the television screens to cheer for their favorite side.
Cricket has seen other rivalries which might come in comparison to the likes of India vs Pakistan but certainly has proved thrills and spills for fans in the last 20 years. The Southern Hemisphere rivalry between Australia and South Africa has been under-rated given the fact that the world has witnessed cliffhangers between the two sides across three formats.
Since readmission in 1992, South Africa has put a strong fight to Australia in the limited-overs format. From 1999 Cricket World Cup nail-biter at Edgbaston to epic chase at the Wanderers in 2005, South Africa and Australia produced highest quality of cricket in these games.
Steve Waugh’s batting heroics against South Africa (1999 World Cup-Super-6 Stage)
Australia faced uphill battle against South Africa in a must-win game played at Headingley. Steve Waugh rose to the occasion with the bat and smashed unbeaten 120 runs to help Australia book their place in the semifinals of Cricket World Cup. In the end, missed opportunities proved costly for South Africa in that game. Herschelle Gibbs dropped Waugh with Australia still needed more than 100 runs to win the game.
South Africa’s complacency proved to be their undoing in this game. The game will always be remembered for Steve Waugh famous words to Herschelle Gibbs that, “You have just dropped the Cup, mate.”
1999 Cricket World Cup cliffhanger at Edgbaston (Semifinal)
There is no doubt that the 1999 Cricket World Cup semifinal played between Australia and South Africa at Edgbaston will go down as most memorable game in the folklore of one-day cricket. The games have twists and turns as fortunes fluctuated from one side to another.
South Africa pace duo of Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock produced their best effort with the ball to restrict Australia to a below-par score of 211 runs. Australia Captain Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan played crucial knocks to see Australia cross 200-run mark in their innings.
In reply, South Africa got off to good start as Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs easily negotiated the new-ball. Shane Warne produced his best bowling in the competition and turn the game on its head. He picked three quick wickets to see South Africa in all sort of trouble.
All-rounder Lance Klusener looked set to see South Africa clinch another close game as he smashed Damien Fleming for two scorching boundaries. Waugh brought the fielders inside the circle in order to cut off the runs. Fleming bowled a yorker as Donald froze in the middle of the pitch to see Australia secure a tie and qualify for the finals of the competition. From there on, South Africa has been carrying tag of “Chokers” in World Cup competitions.
In a game of small margins, the semifinal proved to be timeless classic that captivated the cricket audiences from start to finish.
South Africa’s great escape at Melbourne Docklands
The first-ever indoor one-day series played between Australia and South Africa at Docklands Stadium in Melbourne. Australia comfortably brushed aside South Africa in the first game. Jonty Rhodes and Mark Boucher notched up crucial half-centuries to see South Africa a post 227 runs on the board.
In reply, Australia looked comfortably placed with Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting at the crease. Left-arm spinner Nick Boje and medium-pacer Lance Klusener produced tidy spells to see Australia lose the momentum in the middle over of the innings. Shaun Pollock went wicketless in the game.
All-rounder Andrew Hall proved to be surprise package with the ball as he sent down consecutive yorkers to make it difficult for Australia at the end of the innings. He made good use of reverse swing to dismiss quality player like Michael Bevan and Steve Waugh to help South Africa pull off a tie. The game will always be remembered for South African bowlers rose to the occasion to eke out a positive result on the tour.
South African juggernaut chase record-breaking 434 at Wanderers
The fifth and final game of the one-day series played between South Africa and Australia proved to be an epic run marathon. Australia produced their A-game as Captain Ricky Ponting smashed 164 runs to see Australia compile a record-434 runs on the board. South Africa looked hapless as short boundaries and flat surface made it difficult to contain the Australian batting lineup. With the home crowd shell-shocked in the first half, it looked as Australia will walk away with a massive victory to clinch the one-day series.
All-rounder Jacques Kallis seem to have lifted the spirits in the dressing room by stating that Australia might be 15 to 20 runs short. Captain Graeme Smith seemed a rejuvenated figure and opened the innings with Boeta Dippenaar. Smith led the charge and attacked the bowlers from the outset. South Africa lost the wicket early as Gibbs came to the middle to join Smith in the second over of the innings.
The duo certainly dazzled the home crowds with their flurry of fours and sixes. Smith really looked in no mood to settle down and kept attacking bowlers to produce boundaries at regular intervals. Smith and Gibbs added 187 runs in space of 21 overs to keep South Africa in the hunt to win the game. Gibbs shifted gears and decided to take the attack to the bowlers. AB De Villiers, Jacques Kallis and Justin Kemp chipped in with valuable runs and played a supporting role to Gibbs, who clearly looked unstoppable at the crease.
Gibbs scored 175 runs off 142 runs with the help of 21 boundaries and 7 sixes. The departure of Gibbs saw Australian bowlers make a comeback as the visitors needed just one wicket in the final over to win the game. Mark Boucher showed composure and smashed a boundary to see South Africa accomplish a world-record chase against Australia.
The game truly as turned out to be nightmare for bowlers as batsmen cashed in on a placid surface and compiled a lot of runs. The southern hemisphere rivals South Africa and Australia has always produced memorable cricket in limited-overs format in the last two decades.