|Cricket. they say, is a funny game. It, however, turned out to be hilarious on Sunday as records tumbled by the hundreds as South Africa won the fifth and final One-Day International against Australia by one wicket and a ball to spare to win the five-match series 3-2.
Chasing an improbable world record score of 435, South Africa got home thanks to an inspired knock of 175 (111 balls) from opener Herschelle Gibbs. His second wicket partnership of 187 runs with skipper Graeme Smith in 20.5 overs provided the early momentum for the hosts. But South African wicket-keeper batsman Mark Boucher (50 off 43b), who hit the winning runs, and Johan van der Wath (35 off 18b) gave the vital thrusts at the right time. "Chasing 434 is a bit surreal for us," South Africa captain Graeme Smith said. "But it was an unbelievable wicket and the batsmen were all able to play their shots
On a belter of a batting track, 872 runs were aggregated for the loss of 13 wickets, which bested the earlier record of 693 for 15 set in the first ODI of the 2004 series between India and Pakistan in Karachi. While chasing successfully, the Proteas also bettered the highest score by a team chasing second.
Pakistan's five-run defeat to India, also in that Karachi thriller, saw them score 344 for eight in that game. Ironically, the previous highest run chase of 332 for eight recorded by New Zealand at Christchurch in December also saw the Aussies at the receiving end. Australian seamer Mick Lewis earned the dubious distinction of conceding the most runs in an ODI by a bowler when he was flayed for 113 runs in his 10 overs by the hosts
Earlier, Australia captain Ricky Ponting hit a career-best 164. His 20th limited-overs century came off only 71 balls, and when he was dismissed he had faced 105 balls and hit nine sixes and 13 fours.
"You would have thought over 400 would be enough," Ponting said. "But Herschelle and the boys were too good and they deserved their win". It was the first time a team had surpassed 400 runs in a 50-over innings, overtaking the previous best of 398-5 set by Sri Lanka against Kenya in 1995-6.
Australia's previous best was 368-5 against Sri Lanka in Sydney set earlier this season. Ponting moved past 9,000 runs in one-day internationals when he reached 88 en route to the highest individual total by an Australian against South Africa in one-day internationals.
A capacity crowd of 32,000 roared South Africa to a 3-2 series victory after being stunned into silence by Australia's assault after Ponting won the toss and made first use of what proved a perfect batting pitch, with the batsmen aided by a fast outfield.
It was a batting display reminiscent of Australia's performance in the World Cup final at the same ground three years ago when Ponting made 140 not out in an Australian total of 359 for two. Australia went on to win by 125 runs.
Adam Gilchrist and Simon Katich put on an opening stand of 97 before Gilchrist fell for 55 in the 16th over. Katich anchored the innings with his 79 off 90 balls, but when he was dismissed Michael Hussey smashed 81 off 51 balls with nine fours and three sixes.
Roger Telemachus finished with the best figures of 2-87 off 10 overs, but he was hit for 29 in one over.
Smith scored 90 off 55 balls at opener to set a 187-run, second-wicket stand with Gibbs. Australian quick Nathan Bracken was the most economical bowler in the match with 5-67.
Teammate Mick Lewis conceded a world record 113 runs in his 10 overs. South African wicketkeeper Mark Boucher hit 50 off 43 balls, including the winning boundary off Brett Lee. "I'm at a loss for words," Boucher said. "That is my best moment in cricket by far"
It was one of the greatest ODI ever played on the planet. with more than 870 runs scored this match is surely the best one day match the game of cricket has produced.