Steve Waugh rises to the occasion
by AFP

Player:SR Waugh
Event:ICC World Cup 2006/07

DateLine: 24th February 2007


Steve Waugh had inherited a stong Australian one-day side and it was a tribute to his excellence as captain and batsman that he left it a much stronger outfit.


Grit became synonymous with Waugh who was always known for raising his performance in a crisis. The more difficult the challenge, the more resolute was his response.


He knew his job was on the line if he failed to win the 1999 World Cup. The signs were ominous as his team initially struggled before qualifying for the Super Six with no point, meaning they could not afford a defeat at this stage.


His fears were about to come true when Australia were 48-3 chasing a stiff 272-run target against South Africa in their last Super Six match. But he managed to find that something extra which separates champions from the crowd.


"Failure meant a flight home and, in all likelihood, the end of my one-day career, and it was this hovering guillotine that activated the spirit within," Waugh wrote in his autobiography "Out of my comfort zone".


"I didn't want to end this way after 13-and-a-half years in limited-overs international cricket. The job wasn't done yet; there was unfinished business."


The plucky Waugh also needed luck to extend his career. He was on 56 when South African fielder Herschelle Gibbs dropped the ball in premature celebrations of a catch.


Then there was no stopping Waugh, who played the innings of his life to score a match-winning century which helped his team enter the semi-finals.


"Hey, Herschelle, do you realise you've just cost your team the match," the Australian skipper said to the South African.


Waugh also revealed that it was leg-spin wizard Shane Warne who had said in a team meeting that "if he (Herschelle) catches you, don't walk straightaway because he has a habit of show boating".


This was not the only innings of substance Waugh had played in the tournament, for his half-century against South Africa turned out to be crucial in the famous tied semi-final.


Waugh kept his cool in the tense match, setting a single-saving field when the scores were tied with four balls remaining in fast bowler Damien Fleming's last over.


"My only option was to bring the field in to stop the single and hope for a catch or a run-out, while (Lance) Klusener no doubt had another four in mind," said the Australian captain.


Klusener charged for a single off the fourth delivery but his partner Allan Donald probably did not hear the call and started late and was run out by yards. Australians were through to the final on better net run-rate.


Waugh's side were too good in the final against Pakistan, winning by eight wickets to remind the world that it would need an extraordinary effort to beat the Australians.


Australia won seven successive matches after an unimpressive start in 1999 under Waugh, who quit one-day cricket in 2002 after scoring 7,569 runs and taking 195 wickets in 325 matches.

(Article: Copyright © 2007 AFP)


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