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Tuesday, 10 December, 2002, 13:32 GMT

The greatest game ever?

Australia celebrate the dramatic finale to their semi-final meeting against South Africa In 1999 Australia and South Africa wrote one of the most astonishing chapters in the history of the World Cup.

It was the match that had everything and is widely regarded as the best one-day international ever played.

The fact that it came in a World Cup semi-final only adds to its standing.

It lacked only one thing - a result, although the tie still left one team celebrating and the other distraught. Australia qualified as a result of beating South Africa in their Super Six match.

That meeting, only five days earlier, was momentous itself.

South Africa made 271 with Herschelle Gibbs scoring a ton, and at 48 for three Australia were in trouble.

Captain Steve Waugh led the fightback but was given a lifeline when he was dropped on 56 by Gibbs, the South African letting the ball slip from his grasp as he prematurely celebrated.

Waugh, who reportedly told Gibbs that he had just "dropped" the World Cup, went on to make a match-winning 120 not out, Australia getting home with two balls to spare.

The win set up the re-match at Edgbaston that surpassed even the first meeting.

South Africa again won the toss and this time Hansie Cronje invited Australia to bat first.

The ploy paid off with Shaun Pollock and Alan Donald sharing nine of the 10 wickets, Australia all out for 213 with four balls remaining.

Their innings, which included four ducks, was overly reliant on Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan, who both made 50s.

South Africa were immediately on the run rate, Gibbs and Gary Kirsten making 48 runs in 10 overs before Shane Warne came on to bowl.

His introduction changed the match as he claimed both openers and the South Africans slumped to 61 for four.

Warne's tactics were spot on and after nine overs he had figures of three for 14, and although he was clubbed for 15 in his 10th, he also dismissed Jonty Rhodes.

Despite the best efforts of Pollock and Jacques Kallis, the South Africans were still off the pace by the time Lance Klusener came to the wicket with 39 needed off 31 balls.

But if there was one man who could turn the match it was Klusener.

The player of the tournament had treated bowlers with disdain throughout the month's competition and he walked out with little regard for the reputation of the Australian attack.

That was confirmed after he had clubbed 31 runs off a mere 14 balls to leave an equation of one run required from four balls, virtually assuring South Africa of a first World Cup final appearance.

But in the blink of an eye Klusener and South Africa went from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Klusener was unable to get the third ball of Damien Fleming's over off the square, although he had time and deliveries on his side.

But when he played an identical shot off the following ball and inexplicably ran for glory, last man Allan Donald stood set like a statue at the other end before belatedly setting off.

With a ring of Australians crowding the middle to save the single it was suicidal, Donald remaining stranded in mid-wicket as Adam Gilchrist broke the stumps and South African hearts.

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1999 - Semi-final: Australia v South Africa (08 Jan 03 |  Photo Galleries )

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