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Smith relives Proteas' greatest ODI triumph

Former South Africa skipper recounts memorable day in 2006 when South Africa eclipsed Australia's 434 in an epic ODI battle

Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith has revealed the dressing room joke that settled the Proteas' nerves and put them on course for victory in the greatest one-day international ever played.

On March 12, 2006, Australia blasted their way to a record one-day score of 4-434, powered by Ricky Ponting's 164 from just 105 balls.

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The record lasted just 49.5 overs as South Africa reached 438 to win the match with the last pair at the crease and just one ball to spare.

Smith recalled the match on the BBC's Test Match Special broadcast at lunch on day four of the England-South Africa Test at Old Trafford.

"I remember some very contradicting emotions and feelings, some very diverse stuff going through my head," Smith said.

Smith ponders choices during the Aussie onslaught // Getty
Smith ponders choices during the Aussie onslaught // Getty

"Winning the toss and bowling first and then with 10 overs to go and every ball is sailing over your head into row 20 or 30 you start to think, 'Well, that was a good decision, Smith'.

"I remember walking past (wicketkeeper Mark) Boucher at one stage and asking, 'Do you think they'll get 400? They can't, surely not'.

"It was a terrible day in the field, terrible, then getting off at lunch and knowing you've only got 15 minutes before going back out to bat and now you've got to contemplate, 'how do you do this?'

Ponting hit an ODI career-high 164 in the match // Getty
Ponting hit an ODI career-high 164 in the match // Getty

"I remember going up the stairs to the changeroom, sitting down and I start getting into batting mode and about five minutes after that the change room was quiet. Jacques (Kallis) walked up the stairs and he said, 'Guys, I think we've done a good job, I think they're 15 runs short'.

Delivered in deadpan style the bewildered South Africans cracked into laughter. The tension was broken.

"Then we set some targets, which also made a few people chuckle because we had never seen targets like this in our whole career," Smith continued.

South Africa's run chase got off to a horror start as Boeta Dippenaar chopped on a Nathan Bracken delivery in the second over.

Gibbs celebrates his century with ABdV // Getty
Gibbs celebrates his century with ABdV // Getty

But taking their cue from the Australians, Smith and Herschelle Gibbs launched a stunning counter-attack as they put on 187 for the second wicket.

"It was a magnificent pitch, the ball was sailing on the Highveld," Smith recalled.

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Smith departed for 90 from 55 balls, caught in the deep off Michael Clarke's off-spin. Gibbs, on 84, swept the next ball over square leg for six to ensure there would be no hiccup.

"From that moment he played some unbelievable shots," said Smith. "We got ourselves into a position where we started thinking, 'Jeez, we can actually win this thing'.

"Then we wobbled a bit, and then there were a couple of lower-order magnificent innings."

Bracken collected 5-67 for the Australians // Getty
Bracken collected 5-67 for the Australians // Getty

AB de Villiers was caught on the fence for 14, Kallis was well held by Andrew Symonds off his own bowling.

Amidst it all Mark Boucher anchored the carnage while and Johan van der Wath played the knock of a lifetime to blast an 18-ball 35.

Nathan Bracken removed van der Wath and then Michael Hussey made a fantastic diving catch running in from long-off to dismiss Roger Telemachus in his next over and secure Bracken a five-wicket haul.

Brett Lee was entrusted with the final over and South Africa needed just six. Andrew Hall fell off the third ball with South Africa a run behind, leaving No.11 Makhaya Ntini on strike.

Ntini and Boucher salute the win // Getty
Ntini and Boucher salute the win // Getty

"I'll never forget seeing the replay of Makhaya's one down to third man from outside leg stump, thinking only Makhaya could pull that off."

With the scores tied, Boucher hit a boundary for the winning runs and an already delirious Johannesburg crowd exploded.

"That moment, in that stadium, the Bullring, was something I wish I could have kept with me right throughout my career," Smith said.

"The emotion, the crowd, what had been achieved was just incredible."

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