It was a memorable phase

The cricket fraternity took notice of the huge progress that South Africa had made in less than a decade and there was talk of us winning the title.

"South Africa was a clear winner against some stiff competition," says Jonty Rhodes.   -  Reuters

It was an exciting phase for international cricket. A mini World Cup was being launched and obviously the teams were looking forward to the grand event. South Africa had enjoyed the experience of two World Cups since returning to the international fold — the one in 1992 and in 1996. The cricket fraternity took notice of the huge progress that South Africa had made in less than a decade and there was talk of us winning the title.

That South Africa won the title was hardly surprising because we had a champion player in Jacques Kallis, who established himself as a premier all-rounder in world cricket. True, we were without some big names like Allan Donald and Lance Klusener. The focus was on some youngsters and, of course, horses for courses. The tournament was being held in Bangladesh and the slow nature of the pitches had necessitated the inclusion of slow bowlers. The idea worked well and South Africa was a clear winner against some stiff competition.

The tournament had eight playing days and the format was challenging. It was a knockout competition where New Zealand beat Zimbabwe in the only pre-quarterfinal. We cruised past England, Sri Lanka and West Indies on the way to becoming the champions. The other group had India, Australia and Pakistan.

We began with a six-wicket win over England. It was a high-scoring match since a target of 282 was considered formidable at that time. I contributed a 61 even as Daryll Cullinan and Hansie Cronje kept the chase under control. It was a performance that boosted the confidence of the team and it reflected in the next match, the semifinal against Sri Lanka.

There was anxiety in this game because rain impacted the contest. We batted first and I thought a total of 240 in 39 overs was a competitive one, thanks mainly to a sterling century by Kallis. The target was revised to 224 from 34 overs. But there were some remarkable spells by Steve Elworthy, Pat Symcox and Cronje and Sri Lanka fell short by 92 runs. This big victory prepared us for the final against West Indies, which had made the final by beating Pakistan and India.

The final belonged to Kallis. His five-wicket strike restricted West Indies to 245 even as opener Philo Wallace threatened to take the game away from us. We had contributions from Mike Rindel, Cronje and Kallis and it was a wonderful night for South African cricket as we won by six wickets. Needless to say, it was a memorable phase and I was proud to be a part of it.

Vijay Lokapally

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