Zimbabwe only have two victories in 38 attempts to show for a very one-sided ODI record against South Africa. The first came in Chelmsford, England, during the 1999 World Cup. The second came at Kingsmead in Durban, less than a year later.
The sixth match in a triangular series that also involved England yielded the second upset. The Zimbabweans, indeed, had beaten the English earlier in the series.
A South African XI that still had Louis Koen and Herschelle Gibbs opening the batting and Henry Williams and Mornantau Hayward partnering Shaun Pollock in the seam attack were ultimately outplayed by the minnows. The ODI, too, was Neil McKenzie’s debut.
The last-ball thriller would have been substantially less tight, had Lance Klusener not dug deep for an uncharacteristically patient half-century down the order. Other than fellow half-centurion Jacques Kallis, the hosts’ top and middle order were poor against a visiting attack led by Henry Olonga, Heath Streak and Neil Johnson.
Streak, of course, eventually became Zimbabwe’s head coach, while Johnson had strong affiliations with Western Province and Natal at the time. He was a key player for both provinces and also represented Eastern Province.
In an era when 220-plus was considered a relatively challenging target, the Zimbabweans diligently pursued the 223 posted by the home side.
Johnson set the foundation that Andy Flower (the same Flower that went on to coach England) later continued. All-rounder Johnson had earlier nabbed the important wickets of Hansie Cronje and Jonty Rhodes.
Tail-enders Gary Brent and Streak were at hand to bravely, nervously, ultimately seal the unlikely triumph.
Zimbabwe were unable to clinch a berth in the final, regardless, after being hampered by a washout in Centurion. South Africa beat England in the low-scoring final at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, where Cronje struck a half-century and Pollock snared a telling five-wicket haul.
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