‘I missed the fricking ball’: Lance Klusener on the regret of 1999 World Cup semi-final
Allan Donald is run out and South Africa's World Cup is over. © Getty

It remains an iconic moment in not just World Cup history but South African sporting history: the image of Allan Donald run out by Adam Gilchrist at Edgbaston to put Australia into the final of the 1999 World Cup and eliminate South Africa.

That dismissal ended the semi-final with the scores level, but Steve Waugh’s Australia went to the summit on the virtue of having beat South Africa earlier in the tournament. Nearly 20 years since that unfortunate run-out smashed South Africa’s World Cup hopes, the former South Africa allrounder Lance Klusener has spoken of his biggest regret from that day. (IN PICTURES: The greatest ODI ever!)

In his most in-depth interview on the subject of finishing ODI innings and that heart-breaking 1999 World Cup semi-final, Klusener told ESPCcricinfo’s Cricket Monthly that not hitting the winning runs left him hurt.

“Getting one off the last ball, that’s not hard. I can do that. All the hard work was done. And then you just didn’t do what you needed to do. Yes, we could have waited and hit the next ball for four,” recalled Klusener of facing Damien Fleming for the final over. “Yes, we could have waited and got bowled out and people would have asked: “Why didn’t you run the ball before?” That’s the tough way of looking at it. I am upset with myself that I had done all the hard work and then I didn’t do the easy part. That’s the regret.”

An in-form Klusener – who was eventually voted Player of the Tournament – was on strike for the last over of the semi-final. South Africa needed nine runs. Off the first two deliveries, he drove Fleming for fours to level the scores. That left South Africa one run to get from four balls.

Off the third, there was nearly a run-out. Off the fourth, Klusener pushed to mid-off and set off for a risky single. Donald, looking at the fielder, started to get back to his crease and did not hear Klusener’s call. That run out capped one of the most dramatic ODI finishes of all time.

“It’s not just that game but a lot of other games where we need two off the last ball and I miss a fricking ball that I have practised a thousand times. I think that’s the regret I have. To look at it in hindsight, that’s something that makes you frustrated,” said Klusener. “But who’s to say you wouldn’t get a good ball and hit it to cover or get bowled? “Oh, the ball before, you could have snuck one.” And I would be living with the same story. I know what happened.”

Does it bother him, two decades later?

“No, it doesn’t bother me. I know what happens. I have seen the movie before. I made the movie,” said Klusener.