Sultan Zarawani (left) found out the hard way that Allan Donald was not one to be trifled with    Getty Images
Sultan Zarawani (left) found out the hard way that Allan Donald was not one to be trifled with Getty Images

Gary Kirsten launched into the hapless UAE attack with a mission, registering a World Cup record at Rawalpindi on February 16, 1996. Allan Donald rounded the day off by making Sultan Zarawani pay a price for his blasphemy. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at a day of records and events.

South Africa were one of the best sides going into World Cup 1996; UAE, one of the worst. It did not take an Albert Einstein to predict the result. UAE probably had some hopes after rain flooded the Pindi Ground on February 15, the day play was scheduled to begin, but the match resumed on time the next day.

The pitch was kept under covers for four out of the previous six days. Sultan Zarawani won the toss put South Africa in: that was perhaps the only thing that went in UAE s favour that day.

Kirsten s assault

One does not usually associate Gary Kirsten s name with furious onslaughts, but on that day at Rawalpindi it seemed he would score the first double-hundred in the history of ODIs. There was a minor distraction caused by Johanne Samarasekera when he bowled Andrew Hudson for 27, but for Kirsten, the fun had just begun.

For once he did not care about footwork, or even going to the pitch of the ball. He simply hit the ball, off any bowler, to any part of the ground he wanted to and connected everything; he seemed like a man possessed, on the lookout to pull off something big.

The UAE attack, barring Samarasekera, lacked pace or direction, and were duly massacred by a ruthless Kirsten. He soon became the first South African to score a World Cup hundred (he reached there with an easy stroke through extra-cover for a brace). Up went the bat, out came the helmet, and as Kirsten celebrated Rawalpindi got a glimpse of the proud green-and-yellow bandana.

But he was hungry for more. I just thought, well, enjoy it, and play as aggressively as you can which is unusual for me, he later told Star Sports. Out came the lofted drives and the slog-sweeps; the UAE bowlers were clobbered into submission. Hansie Cronje s stumping off Zarawani went almost unnoticed.

Darryl Cullinan was content on providing Kirsten with the strike as the latter kept on toying with the bowling. He shuffled across the stumps with the same ease as he moved towards leg to make room. After a stage it seemed he could hit any ball anywhere; the distraught Emirates bowlers seemed to have abandoned hope.

Off came the helmet, as Kirsten approached Viv Richards 181 (the then World Cup record) at breakneck pace. A crude slog past mid-wicket off the last ball of the final over took him to the landmark, but there was something bigger at stake: could he also go past Richards 189 not out then the highest ODI score of all time?

He managed three more, and by the time Cullinan had managed to give the strike back, he needed four off the last ball to reach the magic 190-run mark. He did time the low full-toss well towards square-leg, but could not place it. Despite a fumble, deep square-leg managed to restrict Kirsten to two. He fell short of the then-world record by a run, but managed to register the highest World Cup score of that time. South Africa s 321 for 2 was also their highest score at that time.

[Note: Some sources suggest Kirsten had the idea that he was actually on 188 when the last ball was bowled, and was under the impression that a two would help him break the world record; the error was spotted only after the men returned to the pavilion. Kirsten s reaction during his return tells a different story.]

Donald hits em hard; literally

A target of 322 was always going to be out of reach for UAE, but Azhar Saeed and debutant Ganesh Mylvagnam got them off to a steady start, adding 24 for the opening stand. Mazhar Hussain also reached double-figures, but things went horribly wrong for UAE thereafter as Allan Donald toyed with their batting. They slumped to 68 for six when Zarawani walked out himself to face Donald in a sunhat.

The South Africans, still in their huddle, were as confused as the crowd as they saw the UAE captain emerge: even if there was the remote possibility of the man not having heard of Donald, how did he miss watching him bowl today? Pat Symcox, fielding as a substitute, egged Donald to go for the kill ( Al, this guy s asking for it ), but White Lightening needed no provocation.

Donald bounced Zarawani, perhaps with the intention to scare him. Unfortunately, Zarawani never tried to duck; he simply took his eyes off the ball; the ball hit him on the head, knocking his hat off. The South African fielders converged around him, but to his credit, Zarawani recovered, announcing he was fine. Symcox insisted an encore, but Donald refused.

Years later Donald told in an interview to The Star: When I struck him, I thought I had killed him. [The ball] made just the most horrible thud when it hit him. I was just so shocked by his response. He just put his floppy back on and continued batting.

Zarawani fell to Brian McMillan for a 7-ball duck; McMillan also claimed Imtiaz Abbasi soon afterwards, which brought debutant leg-spinner Shaukat Dukanwala to join Arshad Laeeq. The score read 72 for 8, but at this stage the South African bowlers cut down pace, and eventually Kirsten was summoned to bowl his off-breaks.

Laeeq (43* and Dukanwala (40*) showed sufficient pluck and batted out the full 50 overs, adding 80 for the ninth wicket. South Africa won the match by 169 runs.

What followed?

– South Africa won all five league matches before being knocked out by West Indies in the quarter-final. They are yet to win a World Cup semi-final.

– UAE lost four league matches, but registered their maiden ODI victory against Netherlands.

– Richards eventually lost his record to Saeed Anwar the following year when the latter scored 194 against India at Madras.

Brief scores:

South Africa 321 for 2 in 50 overs (Gary Kirsten 188*, Hansie Cronje 57, Darryl Cullinan 41*) beat UAE 152 for 8 in 50 overs (Arshad Laeeq 42*, Shaukat Dukanwala 40*; Brian McMillan 3 for 11, Allan Donald 3 for 21) by 169 runs.

Man of the Match: Gary Kirsten.

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