I’ve been asked about it on and off for much of the last 20 years but, with the World Cup returning to England for the first time since 1999, there has been a glut of revisits to the most infamous run out in World Cup history.
Poor old Lance Klusener and Allan Donald. They would have been perfectly within their rights to have drawn a line under the incident many years ago and decided never to talk about it again – there was enough on the record from both them.
But now that the World Cup is returning to the UK they’ve been flooded with requests to relive the nightmare. Just last week AD relived the horror in a podcast with Zimbabwean journalist Dean du Plessis. You can listen to the full 30-minute interview on Dean’s YouTube channel but the part dealing with ‘the run out’ is here:
“We were the best team in the World Cup, I dont have a shadow of doubt about that. We were incredibly well balanced with lots of all rounders and we were the form team, ranked number one in the world in both formats, as it was back then. There were a couple of hiccups along the way, before the semi final, including a loss to Zimbabwe – we didn’t show them enough respect. We thought we could just rock up and get the game done but they were damned good team, much better than we gave them credit for.
“The semi final was one of those heart-breaking days that nobody will ever forget. It was a cricketing mishap. Lance and I have known for many years that people will never stop talking about for as long as we live, and probably for years after we’re gone. But that’s what the pressure of the World Cup brings, things like that happen, it’s the brutality of that pressure.”
Asked about the atmosphere in the SA change room afterwards – was there anger, tears, sadness, disbelief?
“All of the above, and more. Not just ‘sadness’, it was stronger than that. It felt like a member of the family had passed away, it was that strong. It felt like we’d never get over it. Nobody moved for an hour afterwards. Hansie went to do his post-match press conference and we were all in exactly the same positions when he came back. Nobody said anything, that I can remember. I went to the physio room, which I knew all too well after my years playing for Warwickshire, and closed the door. I just wanted to be alone.”
“When Hansie came back he got everyone together, dug me out of the physio’s room, and told us how proud he was of every single one of us. Nobody else wanted to speak but he was strong enough to say what he needed to say. It was a horrific end to a game we never lost. But we were out of the World Cup and it felt disgusting, to be honest.”
“We calmed down eventually and started to move. Steve Waugh and Glenn McGrath came in – they came to speak to me and said it just wasn’t meant to be, that I didn’t deserve to be in that position. Steve said I should remember that we are sportsmen and that this kind of thing makes us stronger. It was just such a tough time to deal with.”
“It was worse for me, probably, because when the squad broke up and everyone went home – except Gary and his wife who went on holiday to Europe – I went back to Warwickshire and spent a lot of time with Bob Woolmer trying get everything back on track. It wasn’t an easy time for me, and it wasn’t easy for a number of years after that. Wherever I went there was always somebody with something to say, either abuse or sometimes support.”
“That’s sport – it happens all the time, not just that game. But that was huge – it was like missing a penalty in a World Cup semi final. I can sympathise. This is the kick that matters, the moment your country expects you to deliver – and then you miss. It’s how you respond and emerge from it that makes you the person you become. I can relate to that trauma and I have been able to use that experience to help young players during my coaching career.”
Time really does heal all wounds but that game left a greater scar on those involved than any other – and there have been a few. I never thought I’d see a South African captain look more devastated than Hansie Cronje during his post-match press conference. But I did. Shaun Pollock, Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers all wore a similarly grey and haunted look after their respective exits. Cronje’s most memorable line, delivered without so much as a twitch, was: “We didn’t run as well between the wickets as we might have…”
“You experience highs and lows in a career, and this is obviously one of the lowest of the lows,” said Cronje. “It showed just what a cruel game this can be. People will always say we had four balls to score a single to win the match and they will always question why Lance called for that run. But to blame him would be an injustice. He has pulled us out of a number of close games in this event and all the guys have a lot of sympathy for him,” said Cronje.
Nine runs were needed from the last over with Klusener on strike and number 11 Donald at the other end. It was literally hard to breathe in the commentary box. Nine off six balls. It felt like 19. Then Klusener smashed the first two deliveries from Damien Fleming to the cover boundary. Breathing came in gasps and the hot flush of adrenaline made our cheeks go red. Then Darren Lehmann fluffed a straightforward run out chance from the third ball and Donald remembers saying to himself: “Thank God, we’ve got away with it. We’ll be alright now…”
Fleming’s fourth ball was a yorker which hit the bottom of Klusener’s bat and bounced past the bowler. “I was in the crease until the moment the ball past him and only then did I start to run. I looked up and saw Lance, saw him rushing to my end, and started to run as well. My legs felt like jelly. I heard that Aussies shouting ‘keeper! Keeper!’ as I tried to get my legs moving properly. It was a dreamlike sequence. I ended up dropping my bat, and was run out by 10 yards at least. The Aussies fell into each other’s arms, and my world just fell apart,” Donald said.
“I think I was right to stay in my crease until the ball went past the bowler but I should have run instantly when it did. But I was too slow in getting out of the blocks and Fleming had the time to gather Steve Waugh’s throw from mid off and underarm to the ‘keeper’s end. It looked terrible – amateurish, panicky, village green stuff — not what you should see in a World Cup semi-final featuring a guy who has played for his country for more than a decade. I had let down my batting partner, my team and my country.”
Klusener believed for years that the world would ‘move on’ and the horror would be forgotten. But years rolled by and he saw people still looking at him ‘funny’. The braver ones would ask what happened. And why.
“Eventually I accepted that it would be a part of my life forever, that for as long as I was around I would have to explain it, over and over again…and that I would always have to say ‘I’m sorry’,” Klusener said ten years ago. [In my book: “The Proteas: 20 Years, 20 Landmark Matches”]
And now, a further ten years down the line with the World Cup returning to England and another semi final scheduled for Edgbaston?
“Time does heal, but it’s all still there, you can’t change anything. I tried pretending it didn’t happen for a few years, but that didn’t work. So, I’m still sorry,” Klusener said recently.
It’s still hard to laugh at the memories although it is human nature for the darker side of humour to make an appearance. The two men took a very different view to watching replays:“I couldn’t bring myself to watch it for about 24 hours but then I watched it over and again in the days that followed, hoping there would be a different outcome. I guess I wanted to understand what had happened, and why. I was torturing myself but I couldn’t stop. I just kept watching it. I’m not sure it helped. It didn’t help,” Donald said.
“I never watched it,” Klusener says. “”Why would I? I know how the movie ends and I didn’t like it. I played the good guy in enough movies for me not to have to watch the one where I play the bad guy. Like AD, I know I have to live with it for the rest of my life. That’s enough punishment for me.”
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.