When south Africa scripted history in an epic chase : I was just 10 years old when this happened. March 12, 2006. The hosts Proteas facing the Aussies at the Wanderers in the beautiful city of Johannesburg. The series levelled at 2-2.
Australia went out to bat and it seemed as if they were batting forever. It was 2006 and cricket had hardly seen it’s shorter version. In the pre-T20 era 300 was still considered a par score. On display was something extraordinary. Eyes popped out and the jaws were dropping in the crowd as the Aussies demolished the South-African bowling line-up.
Ricky Ponting scored a magnificent 164 and the whirlwind half-centuries from Adam Gilchrist, Michael Hussey & Simon Katich got the scoreboard saying Australia 434/4 at the end of 50 overs.
The score had already made headlines all over the globe and the cricketing world was trying to sink in the carnage they had witnessed.
South-Africa had to hunt down a herculean 434 to record the highest successful chase in an ODI. To do the impossible walked out their skipper Graeme Smith. The proteas had no choice but to go guns blazing from ball one even if they had to get anywhere close to the gargantuan 434.
Herschelle Gibbs went on to play arguably the greatest ODI innings in the history of the game as he smashed 175 off just 111 balls. Gibbs was supported equally well by his skipper Graeme Smith who garnered 90 off 55. The partnership between these two added 187 runs in merely 20 overs albeit the job was half done.
When Gibbs got out in 32nd over, South Africa still needed 135 more. Someone had to take the responsibility and it was there Wicket-keeper Mark Boucher who stepped in when the team needed him the most.
On the other hand, Australian bowlers had a mixed evening as the poor Mick Lewis conceded 113 runs from his quota of 10 overs while Bracken picked up a five-wicket haul. Boucher sneaked in a half-century from 43 balls as he was running short of partners.
To not many’s expectations, the game went down to the last over. The Wanderers was all set for an epic finale.
The hosts needed 7 off the final over. Both the teams had everything to lose for. Andrew Hall took strike as he faced the speedster, Brett Lee. One could cut the tension with a knife. Hall started off by hitting a four and then got caught by Clarke.
Walked in Makhaya Ntini who squeezed the ball to third-man for a single.
With 2 balls to spare, Mark Boucher went over mid-on to score a boundary as South-Africa had done the impossible. The miracle did happen.
11 years down the line, cricket has witnessed many great encounters but for me, this one would still go down as the greatest ODI ever played. “Miracle of Johannesburg” as they call it.