So amazingly South Africa will play their 500th ODI game tomorrow against Pakistan. This is an incredible figure and in that 499 so far we have won 307, which in itself has been pretty impressive. I thought which of those games stand out in my memory and have come up with this, the greatest Protea ODI games. Please understand, I am a South African (Proudly), which means there is no place for ties (1999), but rather our victories.
1. South Africa (438/9) beat Australia (434/4) beat Australia by one wicket – 12 March 2006
I have written about this in the past and it is the most obvious place to start. South Africa had lost a 2-0 series lead and went to Wanderers tied. A flat track looked tough, but the application of the Aussies and in particular Ricky Ponting ripped South Africa to shreds. The unthinkable happened as Australia passed 400 and then ended on 434, the highest ever ODI Total. What happened next was unforgettable as Smith and Gibbs started bludgeoning the bowling all around the bull ring. In true South African fashion, we took it down to a fight and the 11th batsmen, Makhaya Ntini, had to score the greatest single in history to get Bouch back on strike. 438-9 and victory in the most incredible way. The Greatest ODI ever played!
2. South Africa (206/7) beat Australia (198/9) by 8 runs – 20 August 2000
Playing under a roof, the series was the first of its kind. South Africa had trailed Australia after losing the first game. The second ended in a tie, one that felt much better than the 1999 one. And so to Melbourne, but without our bull-dog keeper Mark Boucher, who had cut his finger while slicing biltong. Andrew Hall would do the keeping for the Proteas. After falling to 19-4 South Africa fought back through Klusener, Mckenzie and Pollock and ultimately 206 was a good score from that start. Although Gilchrest almost singlehandedly took the game from South Africa, constant wickets kept the run rate down and the entertainment was enhanced when Andrew Hall took the pads off to bowl. Eventually SA were able to hold Australia off and draw the series in a thrilling match.
3. South Africa (183) beat Pakistan (182) by 1 run – 30 October 2013
With 19 runs needed off 55 balls and six wickets in hand, the match seemed safe, even by Pakistan’s standards. But as if allergic to cricket without high-drama, Pakistan conspired a dispiriting collapse as the pitch deteriorated in Sharjah, while Imran Tahir, playing his first ODI in two-and-a-half years, led South Africa to a one-run win. Lonwabo Tsotsobe began the slide when he dismissed the well-set Umar Amin at the end of the 41st over, and Tahir struck immediately after, taking three wickets in his next 11 balls. Pakistan’s last batting pair – Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Irfan – needed to score seven to win, together, and were doing it in leg byes and inside edges, with plenty of close calls in between. With three to get for victory, Ajmal took a single, exposing the clueless Irfan to Morne Morkel, and the bowler needed only two balls to secure the win. He hit the top of off stump, beating Irfan’s lazy prod, sparking wild celebrations on the field, as a stunned crowd looked on in disbelief.
4. South Africa (211/7) beat Pakistan (173/8) by 20 runs (Revised Target) – 8 March 1992
In their first World Cup, a third win for South Africa placed them third in the table. Continuing problems controlling the white ball brought Wasim Akram’s tally of wides to 27 in five matches, and the ball gave Aqib Javed another sort of headache when Moin Khan, lobbing it back to him, struck his forehead to remove him from the field. He joined Javed Miandad, Ramiz Raja and Wasim Haider on the casualty list. Hudson made his maiden international fifty, and Cronje and McMillan added 71 in 12 overs. In reply, Pakistan had reached 74 for two in the 22nd over when heavy rain stopped play. They now had to surpass 193. In the first nine after the halt, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Imran resumed confidently with 61 runs, but both fell within three balls, Inzamam, seeking a leg-bye, turned back to see the low-flying Rhodes crashing through the stumps in an image as timeless as any. Imran then edged to the wicket-keeper. Another 58 runs from five overs proved too much for those who followed, and three of them perished in one eventful over from Kuiper. Although the World Cup didn’t come home with South Africa, this was an outstanding statement that we could compete on the World Stage post isolation.
5. South Africa (300/6) beat New Zealand (298/9) by 2 runs – 9 January 1998
Just two weeks after beating New Zealand by one run, this was one of the best limited-overs games seen in Australia. Chasing 301, New Zealand got close, but it was the type of game SA had been on the losing end of before and were determined not to let it happen again. Off the second last ball, Nash slashed Pollock towards the third-man fence. The ball hit the boundary rope on the full and was, after numerous replays, rightly called four, but it was bad luck that it landed where the rope overlapped itself, presenting a wider target. Had the ball carried the centimetre or two further, it would have been six, levelling the scores with one ball to play. As it was, they needed three and Nash was caught in the deep. Kirsten won the match award with his 103 off 116 balls, while Donald was so precise he was given the rare luxury of three slips in the 20th over.
Which Protea ODI’s stand out in your memory as outstanding and highlights from the first 500?