On 12 March 2006 at the Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, the fifth One Day International (ODI) match between the South African (Proteas) and Australian (Aussies) cricket team was played. This five-game series was tied 2-2, with the Proteas winning the first two matches and the Aussies winning the following two. This fifth match was the series decider.
The Aussies won the toss and elected to bat first. In a superb batting performance, the Aussies scored the most runs in an ODI inning at the time, the first over 400. They scored 434 for four of their 50 overs, smashing the previous world record of 398 runs.
Following this world record performance, the Proteas needed to produce a world record performance of their own to win the match and the series. Herschelle Gibbs and former Proteas captain, Graeme Smith, scored 175 runs off 111 balls and 90 runs off 55 balls respectively, leading the chase. Wickets started falling but the Proteas didn’t ease up on looking for boundaries.
When the final over of the match arrived, the Proteas needed seven runs off their remaining six balls to win the match. After hitting a single and a four the Proteas lost a crucial wicket, putting them on 433 for nine, one wicket away from losing the game and two runs away from winning. Makhaya Ntini stepped up to face the ball. With three balls left and needing just two runs to win, all that was required of Ntini was to get Mark Boucher on strike. Ntini did just that after hitting a single, tying up the match. With two balls left for a single run, Boucher finished the amazing chase by hitting a four. The match commentator Tony Greig referred to the match as “the best one day international ever played”. Media in South Africa and Australia echoed this statement.
This match, which still holds the record for the highest successful run chase, is one of South Africa’s greatest sporting moments. Many of the players who played in this match went on to become South African cricket legends. Avid cricket followers remember the names Graeme Smith, Herschelle Gibbs, A. B de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and Makhaya Ntini.
These former players are still active in the sport today, either as commentators, consultants or coaches. Smith is the current South African director of cricket and Boucher is the head coach of the Proteas.