Dropping the World Cup 1999? Here is Herschelle Gibbs’ side of the story; still thinks ‘it was Out!’

“You have just dropped the World Cup.” Media houses went gaga. Why not? It was a perfect line for a story that was set to be immortalised, in the annals of the great game or else why would we talk about it 17 long years later.

It was the summer of 99; the World Cup came back to the home of cricket in England, after 16 years. The tagline for the series was ‘Nothing gets bigger than this’. The 9th Super Sixes game between tournament favourites South Africa, and Australia was a must-win game for the latter.

South Africa called it right at the toss and batted first, and South African opener Herschelle Gibbs readied himself for a near-perfect day. In his autobiography, To The Point, he writes, “…when I woke up that morning, the first thing that popped into my mind was that I was going to score a 100.”

His inspiration bit is not important but it certainly makes an interesting read.

“I just knew I was going to get a century. Perhaps the girl lying in bed beside me had inspired me. She worked at the hotel, where I had befriended her. I guess she was my lucky charm — she certainly was when it came to my batting. I just wish her powers had extended to my fielding and the bladdy dropped catch,” adds Gibbs.

That ‘bladdy dropped catch’ which still haunts South Africa fans and Gibbs. On a bouncy Leeds track, Gibbs’ 101 took South Africa to 271, of course the late innings was propelled by quick 39 from 36 from Jonty Rhodes and 21-ball 36 from Lance Klusener.

Australia were reeling at 48 for 3 in 12th over when skipper Steve Waugh made his way to the crease. Famously called the ‘Ice-man’ for his ability to remain composed during high pressure, Gibbs, reportedly, welcomed the Aussie skipper at the crease, “Let’s see how he takes the pressure now.”

Australia needed 120 from 115 balls, batting on 56, Waugh looking to flick one,  got an inside edge off Lance Klusener that lobbed to Gibbs at mid-wicket. Gibbs clutched onto the ball and while he was looking to hurl the ball up to celebrate, it escaped his clutch and fell on the floor. ALSO READ: Herschelle Gibbs’s reprieve enables Steve Waugh to play the greatest ODI innings of his life

Umpires thought he did not have the ball under control before he looked to toss it up but Gibbs thinks otherwise.

Gibbs’ version

“But I have honestly always believed that I had the ball under control before I tossed it and ruled it a dropped catch. If you watch the slo-mo replays closely, you can see that I have actually caught the ball. I caught it and chucked it away. That constitutes control in my book. You can even tell that I have caught it by the look on my face. I am looking over at the Aussie dressing room, wanting to send them the message, ‘That’s you gone, done and dusted.’ From my point of view, I caught the ball… I caught it 100 percent,” writes Gibbs.

Did Waugh really say the “dropped the WC” words?

Waugh reportedly told him, “You have just dropped the World Cup.” But the South African denies hearing those words from the Aussie skipper.

Writing about the same, Gibbs says, “…I never heard him say those words on the field. Perhaps he said it later, at a press conference, but I never heard him say it on the field.” But Waugh does recall saying something. In his book, Out of My Comfort Zone, Waugh recalls it as, “I hope you realise that you have just lost the game for your team.”

Whatever the conversation might have been, “Hersch, you have just dropped the World Cup” is a part of cricketing annals. In hindsight, Gibbs did, as Waugh went on to score 120 from 110 balls, as Australia chased down 272 in the final over. It was only Waugh’s second ODI hundred, but one of utmost importance in the history of the game.

Gibbs writes, “Had we beaten them in the Super Six game, we would have knocked them out of the tournament and we would have had an easier semi. We could have carried that momentum into the final. But, ja, we had to face the Australians again in the semis.”

That match went on to be labelled as one of the greatest ODIs and that is for some other time.

Brief scores

South Africa 271 for 7 in 50 overs [Herschelle Gibbs 101 (134), Daryll Cullinan 50 (62), Jonty Rhodes 39 (36), Lance Klusener 36 (21); Damien Fleming 3 for 57, Shane Warne 2 for 33] bt Australia 272 for 5 in 49.4 overs [Ricky Ponting 69 (110), Steve Waugh 120 (110)*; Steve Elworthy 2 for 33] by five wickets.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer, strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)