Video: When South Africa choked Australia

March 12, 2006 marks the day when South African cricket team stunned the whole cricketing world with their fearless batting performance against Australia at New Wanderers. On that day, the tag of chokers was probably removed from Proteas team. It all started with Herschelle Gibbs’ brilliant hitting and support from others from the other end with the similar pace of batting.

Gibbs was the main architect of that famous chase of 434 runs and there is a very interesting story about him prior to the match. It was the fifth One-Day International (ODI) match of the series and the deciding match too as both South Africa and Australia had won two games each. Gibbs revealed about the night before the match in his famous book ‘To the Point: The No Holds Barred’. He stayed up late drinking with a lady and according to him nothing happened between him and his friend.

Before the match, Gibbs was feeling quite drowsy as if he still had a little hangover. Skipper Graeme Smith was not in mood to let him play but he agreed later. The match started with the toss, which was won by Australia who decided to bat first. Since the beginning of the match, openers Adam Gilchrist and Simon Katich were collecting runs at a very good rate with ease and gave an excellent start by putting up 97 runs for the first wicket. Further, Australian skipper Ricky Ponting took the charge and started hitting all over the ground along with Mike Hussey — who joined him later after the dismissal of Katich.

Ponting scored 105-ball 164 and Hussey made 81 runs from just 51 balls. They went on to score a massive total of 434, which was the then highest team total by any team against any Test playing nation. The match was totally in Australia’s hands as no one had ever chased such humongous total. Apparently, some electronic media houses in India even declared the result of the series 3-2 in Australia’s favour during the innings break. In between, throughout Australia’s batting, Gibbs could only recall that he was fielding at somewhere near point and could only see the ball going here and there, as he revealed in his book.

South African chase began with openers Smith and Boeta Dippenaar. The first over went normally and but in the second over, Dippenaar was clean bowled by Nathan Bracken and for a moment it looked like the Proteas are going to lose this match with a big margin. But then came Gibbs at the crease. From there on, both Smith and Gibbs held the charge and started hammering Australian bowlers and their prominent target was debutant Mick Lewis. Both were scoring runs at more than the asking rate. Smith got out 10 short of his hundred at the score of 190 in 23rd over. But Gibbs kept the momentum going and in between AB de Villiers too got out. Finally, Gibbs’ explosive innings ended in the fifth ball of the 32nd over after he scored 175 from just 111 balls with 21 boundaries and seven sixes. There were 18 overs left in the match and plenty of runs still needed to be scored. Gibbs could have easily gone for a double hundred but that was never on his mind. All he was eyeing was the total of 434.

After Gibbs’ wicket, South Africa needed 136 from 18 overs, which was gettable as per South African batting standards. All they needed was someone to stand at the crease till the end and that job was fantastically done by Mark Boucher. Wickets kept falling but Boucher remained unbeaten till the end. In between Jehan van der Wath played a cameo of 18-ball 35 and bought South Africa back into the match. He got out at the score 399 in the 47th over with South Africa needing 36 from 21 balls. In the very next over — which was also the last over of Lewis, Boucher hit two boundaries and Roger Telemachus hit one. Now, they needed only 13 from last two overs. The highest successful chase was looking possible but anything could have happened as they had only two wickets left.

Bracken bowled the next over and got another wicket by conceding six runs from it. Brett Lee was going to bowl the final over where South Africa needed seven with two wickets left. Not only the spectators and players at the stadium were feeling the pressure but in fact the whole cricketing world was watching the match very closely and for all the Protea supporters, their heart came in their mouth when they lost another wicket off the third ball of the over after a boundary by Andrew Hall. It was two needed from three deliveries and Lee had the advantage of having Makhaya Ntini at the crease but he held his nerve and took the most crucial single of his life and gave the strike to Boucher. Now, all the eyes were on Boucher. Could he have won the match for South Africa or not? It was probably one of those moments when one’s heart beat stops for a moment. Lee took his run up and bowled a good length delivery and Boucher drove over mid on and it was all over.

South Africa won and chased down the biggest ever total in the history of ODIs. They deserved this victory and meanwhile Australian team was in shock. They lost the match along with series by 2-3. Who could have thought of this amazing ending? Gibbs probably got over from his hangover and started running around the ground to cheer with the spectators. This was probably the moment when South Africa took off their chokers tag with this scintillating victory.


Brief scores:

South Africa 438 for 9 in 49.5 overs (Herschelle Gibbs 175, Graeme Smith 90 and Mark Boucher 50; Nathan Bracken  10-0-67-5) beat Australia 434 for 4 in 50 overs (Ricky Ponting 164, Mike Hussey 81, Simon Katich 79; Roger Telemachus 10-1-87-2) by one wicket.

(Abhishek Kumar is a cricket devotee currently staffing with He can be followed at abhicricket.kumar and @abhishekkr2593)