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Herschelle Gibbs: The birthday boy

harshal gibbs, harshal gibbs birthday

After making his international debut in 1996, Gibbs played international cricket till 2010 and also took part in T20 leagues in the early days of franchise cricket.

Few gave South Africa a chance after Australia posted 434/4 at the Wanderers in the fifth ODI of the 2005/06 series. It was the first time a team passed the 400-run barrier in the format. As things turned out, South Africa chased down the target, winning by one wicket with one ball to spare. The memorable chase was masterminded by Herschelle Gibbs, who blasted 175 runs off just 111 balls to put South Africa in control. 

Gibbs, one of the most colourful characters in South African cricket was born on 23 February 1974. He had a memorable career with full of outstanding innings and multiple controversies on and off the field.

Gibbs was among the most successful South African openers and one of their all-time great fielders. After making his international debut in 1996, Gibbs played international cricket till 2010 and also took part in T20 leagues in the early days of franchise cricket.

His 6,167 Test runs came at 41.95; his 14 hundreds included two double hundreds; and in ODIs, he scored 8,094 runs with 21 centuries. Of South African openers, only Graeme Smith has more hundreds in Test cricket, and only Hashim Amla has more in ODIs. That 175 at the Wanderers remained his highest ODI score. 

In 2002, Gibbs scored three consecutive hundreds in ODIs (and 97 not out in the next innings). In the 2007 World Cup, he smashed Netherlands spinner Daan van Bunge for six sixes in an over; he remains the only person to achieve this in ODIs.

Unfortunately, Gibbs had his run of controversies as well. He was among the five South Africans named in the 1999 match-fixing scandal. He took $15,000 from Hansie Cronje to score under 20. Gibbs took the money but smashed a 53-ball 74. He served a six-month ban, following which he declined to tour India on multiple occasions. 

On his return Gibbs opted to wear jersey 00, indicating a fresh start, but controversies never seemed to desert him. During a Test match in 2007, the stump microphone caught him muttering ‘go back to the zoo’ at Pakistan cricketers. He was banned for a Test, two ODIs, and a T20I.

And then there were accusations of smoking marijuana and a drink-and-drive arrest. To cope with his alcohol abuse, Cricket South Africa sent him to a month of rehabilitation.

But the most famous cricket story involving Gibbs came during the 1999 World Cup. In a Super Sixes match against Australia at Headingley, Australia lost three early wickets in a tricky chase of 272. Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh were trying to resurrect, but another wicket would put South Africa in control. Gibbs already scored a century early in the day.

During the 31st over of the chase, Waugh flicked uppishly to Gibbs at mid wicket. Gibbs tried to throw the ball in the air to celebrate before holding the catch, and the ball was grassed.

Waugh scored a hundred, Australia won, did enough to ensure they were above South Africa in the points table, tied the semi-final against them, went through to the final and won the World Cup. There’s a myth that Waugh told Gibbs, ‘you have just dropped the World Cup’ immediately after the drop, but the story has been denied by both parties. However, in the team meeting ahead of the match Shane Warne had warned his teammates about Gibbs’ habit, insisting that nobody walked until he completed a catch.

A Masters in Mass Communication is following her passion for cricket through writing. Primarily a PR person who loves to write absolutely anything and everything about cricket.

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