That’s how you seal matches! Andrew Hall (left) celebrates after Tillakaratne Dilshan misses the last ball © Getty Images
That’s how you seal matches! Andrew Hall (left) celebrates after Tillakaratne Dilshan misses the last ball © Getty Images

January 24, 2006. South Africa put up 263 for 5 thanks to Boeta Dippenaar, that unheralded champion of the 50-over format, but Tillakaratne Dilshan led the charge for Sri Lanka till it came down to the final over, sent down by Andrew Hall. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at probably the greatest final over bowled in an ODI.

When it comes to handling extreme situations, you probably cannot find a better candidate among cricketers than Andrew Hall. Back in 1998, when he was leaving an ATM, a mugger shot six bullets at him. Thankfully he survived, the only damage being an injured hand. He made his ODI debut the following year, and finished with a short but impressive career.

The 2005-06 VB series had started on a high note with Australia, Sri Lanka, and South Africa securing a victory each after the first round. With Australia beating South Africa and Sri Lanka beating Australia in the second round, South Africa were in a spot of bother going into Match 6 at Adelaide Oval.

Chaminda Vaas started the match with a maiden after Graeme Smith opted to bat. It would turn out to be the perfect start, for the match would end on a similar note.

Smith added 72 with Boeta Dippenaar before Muttiah Muralitharan had him stumped. Johan van der Wath fell next ball, caught at forward short-leg. It was Murali’s 400th ODI wicket. Then Tillakaratne Dilshan caught Jacques Rudolph off his own bowling. South Africa were 101 for 3 in the 26th over.

Herschelle Gibbs bludgeoned his way to a 65-ball 68. Shaun Pollock and Justin Kemp played a few shots, but it was the perpetually overlooked Dippenaar who batted through the 50 overs, scoring 125 from 145 balls. South Africa reached 263 for 5, a competitive total on a humongous ground in 2006.

Jehan Mubarak fell early in response, but Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara got into the groove. Pollock’s fifth over went for 15 and sixth for 9. Then Jayasuriya launched into Charl Langeveldt, hitting two sixes and a four in the space of four balls. Sri Lanka, after being 16 for 1 in 8 overs, added 46 from the next 4.

On came Hall. Mark Boucher stood up to the stumps, stumping Jayasuriya in spectacular fashion first ball. Sangakkara fell to van der Wath next over. Marvan Atapattu had a brain-freeze (he set off for a single with the ball in Boucher’s gloves) and was run out.

This brought Mahela Jayawardene to the crease to join Dilshan. The pair added a sedate 107 at a run a ball, bringing the equation down to 40 from 36 balls. Then Mahela played on to van der Wath for 52.

Smith entrusted Hall with the ball with 22 to score off 18. Arnold kept out the first yorker, but was bowled off the second. Atapattu used Malinga Bandara as the supersub for Ruchira Perera at this point, and Hall unleashed another yorker. Bandara tried to tap and run, but Hall, quick to the ball, ran him out at the striker’s end.

Vaas managed 5 off the last 3 balls, bringing the equation to 17 from 12. On came Pollock, and the Sri Lankans managed 6 off the first 5. Vaas was caught at long-on off the last ball. Unfortunately, the batsmen had crossed, which meant Dilshan would be off strike.

Sri Lanka needed 11 from the last over. It was a toss-up between Johan Botha (South Africa’s supersub) and Hall. Smith opted for the latter.

Hall’s over to fame

11 in 6. Hall ran in. It was a ‘length-ball’, something today’s pundits treat with disdain, especially if bowled in the slog overs. However, Murali went for the characteristic heave and missed it completely.

11 in 5. It was almost an encore of the previous ball. Once again Hall bowled a ‘length-ball’; once again Murali had a hoick; and once again the ball went to Boucher.

11 in 4. The length remained the same, but this time Hall bowled on Murali’s pads. They scampered for a leg-bye, and Dilshan — who would emerge as one of the fiercest hitters of the ball — was back on strike.

10 in 3. Once again Hall was on target, on off-stump and good length. Dilshan drove to cover but decided against the single.

10 in 2. Desperation was probably catching up with Dilshan. He went for a Murali-ish heave on another identical ball and once again, and missed it yet again, Murali style. The match was decided, and all Hall needed to do was to stop himself from bowling a wide or a no-ball.

10 in 1. Hall was not in the mood to give an inch away. Once again he was on target. Once again Dilshan missed. And once again Boucher collected the ball.

Six balls. Five went past the bat. One leg-bye. A maiden, probably one of its kind.

What followed?

– Australia qualified for the finals with six wins, while Sri Lanka and South Africa were tied with three apiece — but Sri Lanka went through on run rate. They even won the first final at Adelaide Oval, but Australia bounced back at SCG and The Gabba to win the series.

– Dippenaar finished with 3,421 ODI runs at 42.23. Of all openers with 1,500 or more ODI runs he averages fifth. Of all batsmen with 500 or more ODI runs he ranks fifth as well. It is a shame that he is seldom given the credit he deserves.

Brief scores:

South Africa 263 for 5 in 50 overs (Boeta Dippenaar 125*, Herschelle Gibbs 68) beat Sri Lanka 254 for 8 in 50 overs (Tillakaratne Dilshan 82*, Mahela Jayawardene 52) by 9 runs.

Man of the Match: Boeta Dippenaar.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)