As I was watching this match, I asked so many times to myself that is this the greatest cricket match I am witnessing right now.. .and no a few hours later, it was officially called as the GREATEST ODI or the One day International were most runs (over 400) were scored and also chased down!
Let me try to form a picture of this great one day match at wanderers..
It was the 5th and last One day international of the 2006 Australia's tour of South Africa and having lost the first two ODIs, Australia had made a great come back to win both the next two matches. and the series was 2-2 with this last one dayer at Johannesburg. I remember Australian wicket keeper Adam Ghilchrist commenting a few days back that whenever Australia bats first, they want to score 300 runs and if they bowl first, they want to bowl out the opposition! well, today they were batting first, and how..
Fact : Following has earned the television rating of 3.1 for ESPN in India (16.5% people were watching), equal to what home game - India vs England managed to generate on that same day...!!
Australia's Innings :-
They were watchful for the first 4 overs and when they made sure that there are no devils in today's Johannesburg wicket, in fact it is a flat wicket, they started playing unusual shots.. looking for quick runs and as the boundary at the Wanderers were quite short, they managed to hit the fence quite easily..Specially Adam who only made 55 runs, but managed a thrilling start for Australian batting.. After Ghilchrist, in came Austrailan captain Ricky Ponting, and to tell you frankly, to me - Ricky Ponting is the most dangerous top order batsman going in the world of cricket right now. Not only he scores quickly, but if he is there till the 35th over or so, he hits sixes with such an ease that makes the bowlers look fool. I remember that 2003 World Cup final match where till the 36th over, the match was in India's control. But after that, Ponting took it away with amazing sixes... Wanderers was the same ground, so Ricky must have had the same memories.. even the pull shots he played, ball zoomed into the same mid-wicket boundary as it did in that World Cup final match. the only consolation was that our Indian team were not at the receiving end today...!!
After the fall of Simon Katich, who unusually made bigger score of 79 than he normally does, Michael Hussey Hussey came in. Hussey had an one day average of 78.56 before this match, and as he made 81 off just 75 balls, his average must have increased a little more. Hussey is a busy player and in this Greatest ODI, he was busier...Apart from giving the strike back to Ponting, he also chanced his arms and helped himself with 3 sixes.. even Andrew Symonds managed a six, while struggling for whole of this innings otherwise..
There were just 12 over in Australian innings that didn't had a boundary and as the score mounted on, South Africans seemed down and out.. The only ones making noice at the ground righ now were either the Australian group that had come from Perth, or the ball hitting the bat. Rest were at rest!!
South Africa's Innings:-
The start of South African innings in this Greatest one day international was very average. No great to say the least as they lost Dippenaar in the second over.. Boeta had made a century in the previous ODI of this Australia vs South Africa one day series, but in this match, he looked confused. He is no big hitter anyway, so he did what he should have done = Hit out or Get out of the way as in came Herschelle Gibbs. Gibbs started his innings in the perfect manner - he looked for good and confidence boosting shots, and also for the quick singles.. The balls which were hit even little well, were easily reaching the boundary today as the out field at the Wanderers in this Greatest ODI was simply as flat as the pitch itself.
After the 10th over of the match, a relatively unmentioned batsman - South African captain and opener - Greame Smith started to take the charge. To me, his innings was as important as anyone else's in this match as he kept on coming down the track to Australian "fast bowlers" and played some mind-boggling cover drives... Till this time, this South African chase looked like fuming before failing soon..!!
Then came the Gamble from Ricky Ponting to make this Greatest ODI even more great.. he didn't go for the third Power Play after the 15th over.... Although this didn't helped stopping run making as he also opted for his slow bowlers - Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds. It was just a matter of 4 overs, that Smith took charge and started hitting everything out of the ground... he got out in the 22nd over.. with South African score at 190. Ricky took the third Power Play in the 23rd over, when Abraham De Villers came to the wicket. Devillers too had been in very good form in this One day series, but today, he looked confused as Dipenaar did. But he did the good thing by giving strike back to Herschelle Gibbs, who started to refuse singles at one point of time in his innings in the greatest One day international. He just stood at the striking end, and started hitting everything with all the power he had... had Gibbs stayed at the wicket in this Wanderer wonder, he might easily have scored 250 or more runs... but there has to be a limit. He fell trying to murder the Australian bowlers.. at 299 on the board..
From this onwards, cricket at Wanderers was back to how it always has been. South Africa needed 150 odd runs off 100 balls and their best man in this situation was at the crease - Mark Boucher. He stood firm on one side, while Van Der Wath and Roger Telemachus did the hitting from the other end. In the end, South Africa needed 7 off the last over in this Great one day game.. Andrew Hall hit second one to the boundary, and lost his wicket on the third delivery. Then Makhaya Ntini made the most significant run of his life - single down to the third man,to give strike back to Boucher to make 1 run in 2 balls.. which he did quite easily!!