On 16th February 1996, Gary Kirsten played one of the classic world cup innings of all time. His score of 188 remained the highest world cup innings till 2015 and not only the score; the audacious way he had scored them made it memorable innings.
The 1996 World cup started on 14th February and the match between South Africa and UAE was originally scheduled for the next day. However, an unseasonal rain pushed the match to 16th. That was UAE’s first world cup match and their team was full of expats and couple of Emiratis including the captain Sultan Zarawani. Zarawani won the toss and put South Africa in. He would become part of pop culture for a particular act later in the day.
For South Africa, it was their second world cup. Gary Kirsten was playing his first ever world cup match and he almost surprised himself by going out of his natural steady way of betting to play a more free-flowing game. There was not much footwork but as he saw the ball he hit them with wonderful timing and placed the balls perfectly. He held one end and kept playing his shots. On the other end, South Africa lost only two wickets. Fellow opener Andrew Hudson went for 27 and later Hansie Cronje went for 57 after adding 116 with Gary Kirsten.
Daryll Cullinan came at the fall of Cronje’s wicket and gave good support to Kirsten who by that time was all set for a big score. Soon he became the first South African batsman to score a world cup hundred. But he must have been looking for a bigger target. The then highest individual score in ODIs was 189 and the world cup record was 181, both held by the master Viv Richards. Kirsten passed his 150 and when the last over started he was at 179. A flick through mid-wicket took him to 183 and a new world cup record was set. But he could score only three in the next four balls and needed four of the last ball to reach 190. But he could only manage two in the last ball and ended agonizingly close at 188 not out.
A target of 322 was always out of reach for UAE. South Africa had five fast bowlers including Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Craig Matthews, Brian McMillan and a young Jack Kallis with Cronje giving another seam-up option. They reached 24 for no loss but then Donald ran through the middle order and they were 68 for 6. Then Sultan Jarawani came to bat… in a floppy hat. He actually surprised everyone in the ground including the South Africans. It was a provocation act and Donald responded immediately. His first ball to Zarawani was a fast accurate bouncer that hit his temple and the floppy hat went flying. Zarawani to his credit managed himself pretty well and said: “I am fine”. He went for a seven-ball duck to McMillan who also took the next wicket to put them at 72 for 8. That’s when Shaukat Dukanwala joined Arshad Laeeq and batted sensibly. By that time the South African bowlers have reduced their pace and even Kirsten was invited bowl 3 over of his off-spin, his third and last instances of bowling in an ODI match. The duo batted patiently and added unbeaten 80 runs in 20-odd overs to finish with 152 for 8.
This match remained memorable to cricket fans for Kirsten but also for Zarawani who became subject to cricket quizzes all over the world.
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