On this day in 2006: South Africa & Australia clash in a historic ODI

South Africa

There are a few cricket matches that we all recall just by numbers. Speak of 281 and the 2001 Eden Gardens miracle pops up into our memory. 359 reminds us of India’s stunning defeat in the 2003 World Cup final. Likewise, the numbers 434 and 438 instantly take us back to 12th March 2006. On that day in Johannesburg, South Africans witnessed arguably the greatest ODI of all times. The match produced a scorecard that was closer to fiction than facts.

Australia breach 400

Leading into the final of the five-match ODI series, both the teams had won two encounters each. After trailing by 0-2, Australia won successive matches to jump back into the competition. In the final at the Wanderers, Johannesburg, Australian Captain Ricky Ponting won the toss and chose to bat first.

Simon Katich 79 (90) secured one end while his opening partner Adam Gilchrist breezed to a 44-ball 55. After the fall of the openers, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey joined hands to punish the South African bowlers. Hussey smashed a quick-fire 81 (51) to take the team score past 370 by the end of 47th over.

Australia next collected 28 runs from the 10-ball over (four consecutive no-balls) of Roger Telemachus. Ponting’s incredible 105-ball 164 revived the memories of 140 not out against India in the 2003 World Cup final. His innings included 13 fours and nine sixes. The visitors piled up a world-record total of 434/4 in 50 overs.

Also read: IND vs SA: When India revived South Africa in international cricket

“10-15 runs short”

Discouraged South African unit gathered in the dressing room post calamity. In the lunch break, Jacques Kallis quipped that the Australian score was 10-15 runs short on this track. The all-rounder knew better as he himself had conceded 70 runs from his six overs. Graeme Smith and Boeta Dippenaar emerged from the South African pavilion to start the most phenomenal chase.

South Africa lost Dippenaar in the second over. Herschelle Gibbs, who had enjoyed plenty of drinks with his friend on the previous day, walked out to bat at number three. Along with Captain Smith 90 (55), Gibbs launched a thunderous counter-attack on the Australian bowlers. When the Gibbs Storm halted at 175 runs from 111 balls, South Africa needed 136 runs from 109 deliveries.

Mark Boucher 50* (43) then led the run-scoring while Australia chipped away with wickets at the other end. Flashy 35(18) from Johan van der Wath brought the target down to 36 from 21 balls with three wickets in hand. A flurry of boundaries from Boucher and Telemachus reduced it to seven runs from the last over. Australia were still in the hunt with Brett Lee fuming in to bowl.

Boucher stole a single on the first ball. Andrew Hall, now on strike, carted Lee for a boundary through midwicket. Lee struck back with a wicket, and the match was in the balance once again. South Africa were still two runs away from a historic win. Makhaya Ntini fended the next ball for one run, bringing Boucher back on the strike. The wicketkeeper lofted the following ball for a four to clinch the most sensational victory in ODIs.

A record-breaking game

The high-scoring encounter set many new records. The highest team score in ODIs, highest chase in ODIs, most runs in an ODI (873 runs) and most expensive bowling figures (Mick Lewis – 113 runs in 10 overs) were the most prominent ones. Ricky Ponting and Herschelle Gibbs shared the Player of the Match award for their exceptional knocks.

The mind-boggling scores of 434 and 438 are still hard to believe. The match broke the 400-run barrier in ODI cricket for the first time. It pushed the boundaries of possibilities. It still remains an oddity, an encounter for ages.