Favourite World Cup memory: For Amal Prabha, it's that nail-biting Aus vs SA semifinal of 1999

South Africa's loss to Australia in the semifinal of the 1999 World Cup is one of his favourite memories in the history of the tournament, says Amal Prabha.

Lance Klusener and Allan Donald

South Africa's Allan Donald (r) sets off for the one run needed to win the match as teammate Lance Klusener (l) passes him at the crease. Donald failed to complete the run and the match finished in a tie, securing Australia's place in the final due to their higher finish in the Super Six section of the tournament.   -  Getty Images

It’s easy to cherish successes and memories of celebration but those that involve loss are equally important when a team and its fan base grows. Being the loyal India supporter that I am, the games where India was knocked out of the tournament are undoubtedly memories I don’t exactly cherish.

One of the worst World Cup memories is the 1999 semifinal between Australia and South Africa. I did not see the match live but went back and watched it when my interest in the game grew. Australia had crawled to 213 in 49.2 overs. I remember how Shaun Pollock terrorised the middle and lower order. South Africa managed a good start through Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten but the top order fell like dominos soon enough.

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We are used to final over finishes today but they were a spectacle back then. This match too went down to the wire. South Africa was 205/9 needing 9 of the last over to win and advance. Allan Donald and Lance Klusener were out in the middle. The over began with two back-to-back boundaries but Protean hearts almost sank when a run out attempt off the third ball nearly succeeded. 

However, a ball later, the drama reached its climax. Klusener hit a Damien Fleming yorker straight, and while he ran, Donald didn’t. And by the time the latter gathered his thoughts and ran for the single, Fleming had already rolled the ball to Adam Gilchrist, who took the stumps out in a flash. What a match that was! South Africa gifted the match on a platter and it really broke my heart to see the underdogs go out in that fashion.

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The only World Cup memory that hurt more was India’s defeat to Australia in the 2003 final in Johannesburg. This was the first World Cup I remember. I was six years old and would stay up late to watch India play. When they lost the match, it was too much to bear for me.

It feels good to see India transform the way it has. It's a balanced squad. Our bowling unit is good, the all-rounders are coming good. English pitches in June are heavenly for batsmen (fingers crossed for good weather in mind). I see us advancing to the semifinal this year. Hope I have another addition to the list of good memories by July end.

Amal Prabha

The writer is a  cricketer and a mass communication student at Pondicherry University.

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