Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Greatest ODI ever

Last Sunday i witnessed arguably the greatest ODI ever. For me it was a priviledge to have watched it. The World Champions Aussies taking on the so-called "chokers" Proteas.

The stage was perfect, South Africans were looking for a revenge in their home series from the Aussies after being thrashed by 0-2 in the Test series in Australia and thrown out before reaching the finals by Australia and Srilanka in the VB series. South Africans started the ODI series against the Ponting and Symonds-less Aussies in great style much to their own surprise. After winning the first ODI a bit competitvely Proteas thrashed the Aussies by whopping margin of 196 runs in the 2nd ODI by bowling Aussies out for just 93. It was a really shameful loss for the World Champions, who after being on the pinnacle of this game for past several years, have regularly been showing the signs of being mortal. After their shocking Ashes loss,losing to Kiwis after scoring 334 runs, they lost their first VB series final match after ages to Sri Lanka. And this huge loss to Proteas, whom they have been thrashing for ages was another wakeup call to them. In the 3rd match, Ponting came back to the side and scored a vital 62 runs and then Brett Lee got back to form after being thrashed around the park in first 2 matches to keep Aussies series hopes alive. In 4th match the other injured player Symonds got back into the team and this time he did what Ponting had done in last, he scored an important half-century to take Aussies to a 1 wkt victory to tie the series at 2-2. Once again it seemed that the Proteas are letting slip away a huge opportunity to beat Aussies in a series.

So at Wanderers for the fifth and final match the stage was perfectly set, with series tantalisingly poised at 2-2. Aussies won the toss and elected to bat first. Gilchrist and Katich started extremely well for the Aussies with Gilly giving his usual start and Aussies were running at around 7 an over. Gilchrist fell when the score was 97, and Proteas would have thought they are back in the game, but least did they knew that the Aussie captain Ponting had something else on his mind. This was the same ground where he thrashed Indians in the World Cup final by scoring 141 and leading Aussies to a mammoth score of 359/2. He started relatively sedately, then started getting hot, by hitting Van der Vath for 3 boundaries in a single over. On the other hand Katich was playing the usual anchor role with occasional big shot including a six over longon. When Kallis tried to bowl a slower one, Ponting dispatched him into the midwicket stands with a slog-sweep. That was just the tip of the iceberg. Nobody would have imaginged even in their wildest dreams, what was coming. Very next ball Ponting dispatched Kallis again into the midwicket stands. Next over Van der Vath was hit for 2 fours and a six by Ponting. Ntini was brought back and he too was dispatched for a maximum. But luckily (or rather unluckily) Ntini got Katich out. And this was the start of an absolute mayhem. It wasn't out of form Damien Martyn coming out of the pavilion, it was Michael Hussey who is in a kind of form that he can do anything, in any situation. Straightaway he hit Ntini for 2 of the most amazing cover drives. Several bowlers tried their luck (or badluck) but all of them were thrashed around with Ponting hitting sixes whenever he liked and Hussey just complimenting him. Ponting completed an amazing hundred of just 73 balls, but that wasn't enough. More was in store for the Proteas. When Michael Hussey came down the wicket to Kallis to dispatch him to longon boundary it had almost become a massacre. The 300 came up in just the 40 overs, and we were looking at the first 400+ score in the ODIs. Finally Proteas had a little respite when Hussey was dismissed for 81 off just 51 balls. But then another brutal hitter in Symonds came to the crease. Langeveldt had a complete nightmare of an over, and was pretty close to creating record for maximum number of runs a single over, he bowled 4 consecutive no-balls, which went for 4,1,6 and 4, so effectively he had given away 19 runs without bowling a legal delivery. The record was on the cards, but Dippenar pulled out a breathtaking catch to turn a sure 6 into a wicket of Ponting. Ponting was dismissed for a huge 164 runs off just 105 balls which included 9 sixes. Due to this wicket the Langeveldt over was saved, and he "just" missed the record. Symonds hit some big shots in the end to take Aussies to the 434/4 in 50 overs. They surpassed the 10 year old highest ever ODI total record of 398 runs with ease. They also surpassed their highest ever total of 368 runs, scored just 4 matches ago against the Sri Lankans in the VB series finals. This was a far bigger massacre than the one Indians had been through here 3 years ago in the World Cup finals.

At half way stage it was looking like a same old story for the Proteas, and their "choker" tag seemed appropriate, else how could a team leading the series 2-0, including a 196 runs victory could let a series slip away to 2-2 and then get murdered for 434 runs in the decider at their home ground filled by their own supporters. It seemed the end, it looked like Aussies have come out on top again. Everybody was just thinking about the margin of the defeat of the Proteas.

Neither the most staunch South African supporter nor the Proteas skipper himself would have thought in their wildest imagination that they could ever get close to this everest-esque target of 434 let aside chasing it successfully. They needed runs at almost 9 an over, yes it was about 1.5 runs per ball !!

Then the Proteas innings got started and when Dippenar was clean bowled by Bracken for duck in the 2nd over itself, it was looking like we were just seeing the last rites of the match. But Proteas skipper Graeme Smith and Gibbs didn't seem to realise that ! They came out as if they had nothing to lose. They came out with all guns blazing, their sole aim was to hit that small white object to or over the fences, no matter which bowler threw it to them. Lee, Lewis, Clark, Symonds, Clarke all tried their luck but all of them were hit to various parts of the ground. Proteas were scoring at an amazing rate of around 9 an over, but alas the asking rate was still right up there at 9. Finally Graeme Smith was caught of the bowling of Michael Clarke at 88 off just 56 balls. Gibbs and Smith added 187 runs in 20-odd overs. After the Smith's dismissal Gibbs got into the top gear (that was as if he wasn't earlier in top gear :D). He hit the very next ball for a six. Very next over Ponting chose to take the 3rd PowerPlay, hoping that after the Smith's dismissal Proteas will probably slow down. But he was wrong by a big margin. Gibbs literally went berserk in that PowerPlay, he hardly kept his feet inside the crease. He came charging down to almost every delivery from the Aussie pacers and kept hitting them up and over the offside boundaries. It was another massacre we were seeing. Meanwhile he completed his century, and then Bracken dropped Gibbs when he was on 130. It was a sense of dejavu here, as it was Gibbs who dropped Steve Waugh in '99 World Cup, which turned out to be a match losing catch. And a similar fate was pretty likely for the Aussies here. Gibbs continued his bit hitting before he was finally dismissed for a huge score of 175 off just 111 balls, with 7 sixes. If he hadn't continued to accelerate he could have very-very easily got to the first double hundred in ODI's. But this wasn't a time to think about individual records. It was a battle going on, and the team was the top priority. Lot of experts were suggesting that after Smith had been dismissed Gibbs should have slowed down and should have batted till the end, but they were completely wrong. Gibbs tried the other approach, he kept hitting and hitting, because he was in such a "zone" that whatever he hit was going to the boundaries. So it was a correct approach. It was his hitting which reduced the required rate to around 8. Bracken picked up few quick wickets, and Proteas lost AB Devilliers, Kallis and Kemp cheaply. Here they surely would have been thinking that Pollock's batting would have been real handy here. On the other end Boucher was holding his fort well, picking up 1's and 2's. Asking rate had climbed to around 12, with 70-odd runs needed of 43 balls and then came Van der Wath, what an innings that youngster played. He hit Lewis for 2 sixes, hit a six of Bracken. He was finally dismissed for 35 off just 14 balls. It completely turned the game around. Now 30 were needed of last 3 overs. With Boucher and Hall at the crease. Ponting chose to give the 48th over to Lewis who had been the worst hit bowler. And that move badly backfired as Boucher hit him for 3 boundaries to bring the target to run-a-ball in last 2 overs. Bracken bowled a decent 49th over and 7 were needed of the final over. Lee was given the responsibilty of bowling the final over. First ball Boucher took a single, 2nd ball was hit by Hall over midon for a vital boundary. Now only 2 runs were needed, but Hall tried to repeat his last shot again and he was caught at midon. Now 3 balls remained with 2 runs needed by SA, while Aussies needed only 1 wkt with Ntini on strike. Proteas surely would have been thinking about those couple of close losses in the last 2 World Cups here.Lee could have very well wrapped up the match and series for the Aussies with something close to a "yorker". But alas, he chose to ball a length delivery well wide of off-stump, which Ntini very gleefully guided to third man boundary to tie the scores with a single. Now it was Boucher on strike with a single needed of 2 deliveries. Lee again chose to bowl a length delivery which Boucher hit over the midon to win the Greatest ODI for the Proteas and give the biggest sigh of relief to the South African fans, whose heart had been broken by their team so many times with all those near misses. This surely was a pathetic final over by Lee but also a Herculean effort by the South Africans.

Not even in the dreams could anyone had imagined that anyone could achieve the target of 435. I wonder what would have been the dressing room talk at the break. I mean from where did the Proteas got as much self-belief or maybe they had a complete belief that they were going to lose, so they went out as if they had nothing to lose. I guess that was the main reason. There was an Aryton Senna's quote which i have been using as a signature of my mails for a long time now and on an article over this match Harsha Bhogle to pointed to almost the same thing. It quotes as

"On a given day, a given circumstance, you think you have a limit and you go for this limit and you touch it and you think, ok, this is the limit. As soon as you touch this limit, something happens and you realize that you can suddenly go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and your experience as well, you can fly very high."

- Ayrton Senna

So it simply tells that it's us who makes limits around us and always believe that this is the maximum we can reach, but sometimes their are circumstances when u are close to ur own made maximum limit u realise that maybe you can exceed it and this is precisely what the South Africans did on March 12th, 2006 on the very same ground where Indians succumbed to a pressure of a huge score in a World Cup finale.

Now just to quote a few records made in this match which i remember now:
1. Highest team total (made twice in the same match, 438/9 and 434/4)
2. Highest match total (it had to be with top 2 highest team totals coming in the match)
3. Highest no. of sixes hit in a single match
4. Highest no. of fours hit in a single match
5. Highest no. of runs given by one bowler in ODIs (Aussie Lewis gave away 113 runs in 10 overs)
6. First instance in ODIs of one player from both teams getting 150-plus total. (Ponting 161, Gibbs 175)

These are all i can think of, maybe there were a lot more.

I think any words are less to describe this match, this surely was just one of its kind and will surely be remembered as one of its kind. With this i sign off, i have taken long to complete this post. Now probably will be seen here after a long time.


Nutan said...

As usual I am here to give some comments..after not reading the post, for a change. :P

Not actually, I read the first paragraph, thanks to my cricket interest and the length of your post.

Kon ?? said...

hmmm well this surely was not for non-cricket fans like u :)
so don't worry !!
it was mainly and mainly coz i wanted to write my views about this, doesnt matter if anyone else reads it or not !

Sanjay said...

I could really feel the match reading this...

Kon ?? said...

shukriya :)

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