Ex-Proteas batsman Lance Klusener at the 1999 World Cup. Image: IANS

Lance Klusener: The Proteas hero who nearly got us home in 1999

Klusener dominated the tournament with his aggressive batting but it was all in vain after an infamous run-out incident.


Ex-Proteas batsman Lance Klusener at the 1999 World Cup. Image: IANS

Former Proteas all-rounder Lance Klusener’s heroics at the 1999 Cricket World Cup in England are still talked about to this day.

Although Klusener dominated the tournament with his aggressive all-round cricket, in the end, it was all in vain as the Proteas failed to win the World Cup after an infamous run-out incident.

There are a few who still blame the man known as Zulu for that run-out but for many cricket lovers, the left-hander was the star of the tournament, and he almost single-handedly guided the Proteas to their first World Cup final.

Australia might have won the tournament, but Klusener took the shine.

The former Proteas all-rounder played in his first ICC World Cup in 1999 and was chosen primarily as a bowler alongside Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock. His aggressive batting helped the Proteas make the semi-finals of the World Cup despite their batting collapse in some of the games.

Klusener’s 1999 World Cup heroics will never be forgotten

In the semi-final match against Australia, which is dubbed ‘the greatest World Cup match’ in history, the Proteas needed to win to reach their first-ever WC final. The Aussies batted first and were restricted to just 213.

Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs got the Proteas to a good start but after their partnership was broken, wickets fell at regular intervals until Klusener came into the picture. The former Dolphins coach tore the Australian bowling attack apart and with one over remaining, the Proteas needed just nine runs to win.

Klusener/Donald ‘curse’ continue to haunt Proteas in World Cups

Damien Fleming was given the ball in the final over and his first two deliveries were smashed for four, which swang the momentum back to South Africa. With one run needed and Klusener on strike, SA were almost guaranteed to reach the final.

The third ball from Fleming was hit viciously by Klusener but went straight to a fielder however, Donald attempted to run but was sent back, almost getting himself run out at the non-striker’s end. From then on, the script was written and not in Klusener’s favour.

Former South African batsman Mike Proctor ‘read’ the script and following Donald’s panic, he said, “That could be the difference between a World Cup final or nothing.”

The fourth ball was similar to the third, Klusener mis-hit his shot to mid-off, but this time Zulu panicked and went for the run.

As he sprinted down the pitch, Donald, at the other end, was watching the ball instead of running. Mark Waugh threw the ball to Fleming who rolled it along the pitch to Adam Gilchrist to hit the stumps and send Australia to the final.

The match ended in a tie but Australia went through after finishing higher in the Super Six table than South Africa due to a superior net run rate.

Although the Proteas failed to win the tournament, Klusener was hailed a hero and will forever be remembered for his baseball-style backlift and aggressive hitting.

After the World Cup, he was named Player of the tournament after scoring 281 runs with his batting average skyrocketing to 140-plus. He also took 17 wickets.

Upon his return to the country, Klusener was applauded by fans and the media; he even received a phone call from global icon Nelson Mandela.

In the next four years, Klusener would fail to replicate his form at the 2003 World Cup which saw Proteas bow out in the Group Stages of the tournament.

His 1999 knocks will forever be remembered by many cricket fans but had he helped the Proteas to glory then, he would have been hailed as an icon just like Siya Kolisi and Francois Pienaar.