Lance Klusener was the 1999 Cricket World Cup player of the tournament. However in spite of his heroic efforts, South Africa fell short in a dramatic semi-final against Australia. After seeing off India in the first group match, the Proteas were in trouble against Sri Lanka. Klusener came in with the score 115/7 and landed some lusty blows at the end in making 52 not out and leading the side 199/9. “Zulu” then took 3/21 as the South Africans won by 89 runs.
The all-rounder says he did not feel that it was going to be his tournament after that match, “No, definitely not. It’s always nice to get a performance early. It was just about making sure you do your work. It was important that you rock up and do what’s needed in those big tournaments. I don’t think you can play one game and have those expectations.”
There are some who say that if Klusener did not bail the side out on so many occasions that South Africa might not even have reached the semi-finals. “I suppose there were instances but at the end of the day it’s not often that just one guy will get the team over. There were contributions all the way down even from Polly and Boucher. I always felt as a batting unit we were always 20 runs short. We didn’t quite fulfil our potential with the top six we had.”
In the fateful semi-final against the Australians, South Africa were in trouble again until Klusener nearly saved the day. Going into the final over, the Proteas need nine runs and the left-hander smashed two fours through the off-side off the opening pair of deliveries. Needing just one run form four balls, the win was virtually secured but then it all went horribly wrong. “Obviously first prize was to continue and just hit the ball for four and walk off. That was plan A but we all know in cricket you need to take whatever opportunity is there for you. So at the same time if there were opportunities to scramble a one we needed to be aware of it because (Damien) Fleming is a very good bowler and who is to say he wouldn’t have bowled four great yorkers and we would have missed out?” Klusener recalls.
There are South Africans who claim that to this day they are still recovering from the run out incident that followed. The current Sunfoil Dolphins coach says he moved on quite quickly, “My attitude towards playing cricket is that at the end of the day it’s just a game and while there’s a lot at stake, sport is unpredictable. There are a lot of factors that go into it. In anyone’s career you can look back and say the thought process might not have been the greatest. We decided what we did to try and win it there and then but it didn’t work out. There were a lot of other times where we needed to make decisions and it did work out. The timing wasn’t great but if I look back it’s always easy to say we should’ve waited a bit longer but what if I had been bowled out?”
Photo credit: Dinesh Debiky/Gallo Images