'How Does It Feel to Drop the World Cup?': Reliving 1999 Cricket World Cup Quote

Tim CollinsFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2014

13 Jun 1999:  Steve Waugh of Australia punches the air after leading his team to victory over South Africa in the World Cup Super Six match at Headingley in Leeds, England. Waugh scored 120 not out as Australia won by 5 wickets to join South Africa in the semi-finals. \ Mandatory Credit: Clive Mason /Allsport
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Few quotes in the game's history hold more notoriety than Steve Waugh's alleged "How does it feel to drop the World Cup?" snipe at Herschelle Gibbs during cricket's limited-overs showpiece in England in 1999. 

Like Bill Woodfull's famous words to Pelham Warner during the Bodyline series in Australia in 1932-33, Waugh's jibe—though still questioned of its truth—has become an iconic moment in his nation's cricketing history. 

With his team facing elimination from the tournament, Waugh—with a helping hand from Gibbs—steered his side to a famous victory and, ultimately, a World Cup triumph after the South African afforded the Australian skipper a remarkable reprieve.

Yet, perhaps the debated remark's significance has been heightened by what the events of June 13, 1999, meant for the game from that date onwards.  

Australia entered the World Cup that year as one of the game's strongest outfits but had spent the previous 12 months dealing with off-field issues.

Chief among those were Shane Warne and Mark Waugh's saga with an Indian bookmaker, Ricky Ponting's pair of bar fights and the bitter pay dispute between the country's players and the Australian Cricket Board (now Cricket Australia).

While Australia possessed a simply extraordinary depth of talent at the time, it appeared possible that peripheral turbulence was capable of limiting the team's success.

Additionally, Australia had laboured through the opening stages of the 1999 World Cup, still finding their feet under the then-radical methods of new coach John Buchanan.

Waugh's words to Gibbs, therefore, have come to represent something of a turning point for Australia—the moment a cricketing colossus escaped the possibility of underachievement to become the most dominant force the sport has ever witnessed. 

Now, 15 years on, we re-live Australia's enthralling Super Six encounter with South Africa and Waugh's now-famous quote. 


South Africa's Innings

13 Jun 1999:  Herschelle Gibbs of South Africa on his way to a century against Australia in the World Cup Super Six match at Headingley in Leeds, England. Australia won by 5 wickets to join South Africa in the semi-finals. \ Mandatory Credit: Graham Chadw
Graham Chadwick/Getty Images

After Hansie Cronje had won the toss at Headingley and chosen to bat, his potent South African side made a brilliant start, reaching 140-1 in the 33rd over.

Despite a sluggish innings from the usually superb Gary Kirsten, Gibbs and Daryll Cullinan powered the Proteas into a strong position with a mix of composure and sublime stroke-play.

Gibbs, whose day hadn't yet taken a turn for the worse, went on to reach a brilliant century.

With Glenn McGrath, Damien Fleming, Paul Reiffel and Tom Moody all rather expensive, it was Warne charged with the task of halting South Africa's momentum—a job he performed superbly. 

From his 10 overs, the legendary leg-spinner claimed 2/33, which included the dismissal of Cullinan for 50 just as the innings looked to be getting away from Waugh's side. 

Yet, as the innings approached its close, the tournament's star player, Lance Klusener, blasted 36 from just 21 deliveries to add 47 runs to his team's total in the final five overs in conjunction with Jonty Rhodes.

1st Innings: South Africa 271-7
G Kirstenc Ponting b Reiffel21463/045.65
HH Gibbsb McGrath10113410/175.37
DJ Cullinanb Warne50624/180.64
WJ Cronje*lbw b Warne030/00.00
JN Rhodesc ME Waugh b Fleming39362/2108.33
L Klusenerc Warne b Fleming36214/1171.42
SM Pollockb Fleming340/075.00
MV Boucher†not out000/0-
Total271-7 (50.0)
GD McGrath1004914.90
DW Fleming1005735.70
PR Reiffel904715.22
TM Moody815607.00
SK Warne1013323.30
MG Bevan302207.33
ESPN Cricinfo


Australia's Innings

13 Jun 1999:  Mark Boucher of South Africa runs out Mark Waugh of Australia during the World Cup Super Six match at Headingley in Leeds , England. Australia won by 5 wickets to join South Africa in the semi-finals. \ Mandatory Credit: Adrian Murrell /Alls
Adrian Murrell/Getty Images

Australia couldn't have made a worse start to their chase of South Africa's 271-7, losing both Adam Gilchrist and Mark Waugh in the first six overs—the latter becoming the victim of a dreadful run out after a mixup with Ponting.

And when Damien Martyn was removed by Steve Elworthy in the 12th over with the score at just 48, Australia looked certain to be heading towards an early tournament exit.

Enter Steve Waugh.  

After settling into his innings and calming his team's chase alongside the established Ponting, Waugh set about derailing South Africa's campaign.

Between the 22nd and 29th overs, the pair clubbed 77 runs. Tellingly, it was Cronje and Nicky Boje who were dealt with severely as they tried to cover the absence of Jacques Kallis by wandering haphazardly through 10 combined overs. 

13 Jun 1999:  Steve Waugh of Australia during his matchwinning unbeaten 120 against South Africa in the World Cup Super Six match at Headingley in Leeds , England. Australia won by 5 wickets to join South Africa in the semi-finals. \ Mandatory Credit: Adr
Adrian Murrell/Getty Images

And then came the tournament's defining moment.

On 56, Waugh clipped Klusener to mid-wicket. It immediately looked out. A simple chance. Struck at Gibbs of all people, a simply brilliant fielder. Surely, it was the end for Australia.

But somehow it wasn't: Gibbs appeared to claim the catch but lost a handle of the ball when trying to throw it into the air in celebration.

"How does it feel to drop the World Cup?" the story goes.

Waugh had been given a lifeline he would refuse to relinquish. 

From there, the Australian skipper thrashed his way to 120 from just 110 balls—just his second one-day international century in 266 innings.

Despite Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock returning to the attack, Cronje's men had no answers for their opponents' possessed captain.

Even the loss of Ponting did little to halt Waugh's charge, as Michael Bevan and then Tom Moody joined their leader to power the men in yellow to a famous triumph. 

From almost certain defeat, Waugh's alleged exchange with Gibbs had inspired Australia to one of the most pivotal victories in their two-decade reign of supremacy.

Gibbs' smug greeting of Waugh upon his initial arrival at the crease"Let's see how he takes the pressure now"—only serves to heighten the legend. 

2nd Innings: Australia 272-5
ME Waughrun out (Boje/†Boucher)590/055.55
AC Gilchrist†b Elworthy571/071.42
RT Pontingc Donald b Klusener691105/262.72
DR Martync Boje b Elworthy11201/055.00
SR Waugh*not out12011010/2109.09
MG Bevanc Cullinan b Cronje27332/081.81
TM Moodynot out15162/093.75
Total272-5 (49.4)
SM Pollock9.404504.65
S Elworthy1014624.60
AA Donald1004304.30
L Klusener1005315.30
WJ Cronje705017.14
N Boje302909.66
ESPN Cricinfo

Of course, it was just four days later that the teams met again at Edgbaston for what is remembered as the most dramatic limited-overs match of all time.

Sometimes forgotten, it was Waugh's innings at Headingley that had pushed Australia above South Africa in the Super Six standings—the decisive factor when the teams finished with a dramatic tie in the semi-final.


All statistics and match data courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo.