Sunday 12 March 2006 is a day that stands out like a ginger in a gang for all South Africans. We have had some outstanding achievements over the past 20 years in South African sport, including AFCON 96, Golf World Cup wins, Rugby World Cup Wins and more. But cricket often hasn’t delivered on the same scale, that was until the 12 March 2006. South Africa were taking on Australia at the Wanderers. A packed crowd were down to see the deciding game of an epic series that was sitting tied at 2-2.
The game got underway after Ricky Ponting won the toss, with an incredible, brutal attack by the Aussies as they flew to a World Record total of 434/4. The innings was led by an attack akin to assault by Ricky Ponting in mauling the South African bowlers to all corners in a score of 164 off 105 balls. He was ably supported by Mike Hussey (81 off 51), Adam Gilchrist (55 off 44) and Katich (79 off 90). No bowler was spared and Graeme Smith who went for 7.25 an over off his four overs was the most economical. News sites and papers across Australia had already gone to print on their marvellous achievement int smashing the Protea’s.
The game was seemingly won and South Africans around the world were left stunned. Many tv’s moved onto the formula one race and other sorts of entertainment. I know I was at a braai with my family and friends and we decided for some arb reason to leave the cricket on. Commentators were saying that South Africa needed a solid start and it couldn’t have started worse. Dieppenaar dismissed in the 2nd over with the score on 3. In to the crease walked the occasional trouble maker, but the one man who could chase down a score of this size, Herschelle Gibbs. What then ensued was magical as Biff and Gibbs counter-attacked with verve and severity not often associated with SA Cricket. The pair put on 187 and when Biff disappeared at 190/2 (22 overs), the impossible was still unlikely, but more importantly it was still on. And Gibbs then took the game on singlehandedly as he flew to 175 after a partnerships of 94 with De Villiers. When Gibbs was out South Africa needed 136 runs still with 108 balls remaining.
Boucher was left to fight the fight for the Proteas and found an able partner in Johann van der Wath after Kallis and Kemp had added a few. Van der Wath departed on 399-7. SA needed 36 to win off 21 balls. Telemachus played a quick-fire 12 but was dismissed and the target was 12 off 10 with 2 wickets. Hall came in, got a boundary and of course was out. 433 for 9, 4 balls remaining, we had seen a similar situation in the 1999 World Cup (obviously with less than half the score!) and it had ended badly for us. But Makhaya played the perfect shot to third man to pull things level and Mark Boucher, the machine was left to hit the winning runs.
South Africans cried, South Africans cheered, the sheer achievement of the moment was not lost on anyone and sport embraced the front page of every newspaper in South Africa the next day for all the right reasons. There were a lot of records broken, but so much more than that, there was a moment in time, when South Africans united to celebrate another significant achievement in our sporting history. Of course it was even better that it was against the Australians.
As I was typing this post, my heart rate quickened as I re-lived one of the finest sport supporting moments of my life. Happy Anniversary to all South Africans for that incredible day. Where were you on the 12 March 2006? Let me know below as we share our memories of a truly incredible sporting day!