Hershelle Gibbs thrilled cricket fans the world over with his flamboyant batting. At the 2003 Cricket World Cup on home soil Gibbs performed well, but the South Africans suffered a shock group stage exit. After going down to the West Indies in the opening match, Gibbs smashed 143 against New Zealand at the Wanderers as the host nation posted 306/6 but then it all started to unravel.
“It was going quite well. The whole season had gone well for me. Eric Simons actually said to me that he’d like for my benefit to hit a scratchy 50 before the start of the game and funny enough that was what happened. But after that I played some good shots and pushed on from there. We got to just over 300 but then Stephen Fleming came in and he obviously went on. The dropped catch by Mark Boucher is what cost us and ended up winning the game I think,” says Gibbs.
The flashy Capetonian batsman hit centuries in the 1999 and 2003 World Cups as well as a few 50s in 2007. Gibbs says it was disappointing that he achieved on a personal level without the side being able to go on and do more, “I think 99 was just a fantastic team and our bowling was just as strong as our batting. We were probably quite evenly matched that way. That drawn result (in the semi-final against Australia) cost us a place in the final which was unfortunate but in saying that it was a fantastic game and everyone speaks of it in the same breath as the 438 game. Anything could have happened in that last over. I’ve made no bones about always wanting to have won a World Cup. I lived for those moments and probably the reason I did so well.”
Despite the Proteas’ problems in 2003, they went into their final group match against Sri Lanka needing a win to progress to the Super Six stage. On course for the result they needed, it started raining in Durban and Duckworth/Lewis game into play. The home side somehow misinterpreted the reading and believed the par score was the winning score; a recipe for disaster. Gibbs says the mood in the dressing room afterwards was morgue-like, “I think it was pretty sombre. It was exactly the same as in that semi-final in 1999. I was completely devastated and there was just dead silence and disappointment, especially being in your own backyard and that probably made it a lot worse. I think Nicky Boje was on his way out to tell Bouch he needed an extra run and I think he wasn’t allowed onto the field by the umpires so that didn’t help. It wasn’t great but what can you do?”