Herschelle Gibbs had a stellar career for South Africa starting from 1996 till his final international days in 2008. The right-hander, termed as the next Jonty Rhodes due to his magnificent fielding abilities, was one of the best openers for South Africa for a long time. In 90 Tests, he smashed 6167 runs at an average of close to 42 while in 248 ODIs, he blasted 8094 runs at an average of 36. The South African top order benefited greatly from Gibbs’ ability to change the course of the match with an audacious knock at key moments in the match.
On his 45th birthday, we remember Gibbs for three major knocks which have defined his batting and career. In the 2007 World Cup match between South Africa and Netherlands at Warner Park, St. Kitts, Gibbs entered the record books and entered an elite list of players to have achieved this feat. South Africa chose to bat and Jacques Kallis provided them a stable platform. In the 30th over bowled by young wristspinner Daan van Bunge, Gibbs chose to etch his name in the record books.
The first ball disappeared over long on while the second ball was dispatched over long off. The third ball was hammered over long off for the third six and thumped a full toss over deep midwicket to near a record. The fifth ball was short and Gibbs crunched the pull shot over wide long off and the record was made when he smashed a flighted ball over deep midwicket to become the first player in ODI history to hit six sixes in an over.
Before Gibbs, Sir Garfield Sobers and Ravi Shastri had become the two players who had hit six sixes in an over but Gibbs became the first to achieve the feat in ODIs and in limited-overs cricket. After Gibbs, Yuvraj Singh hit six sixes in Twenty20 Internationals when he clobbered Stuart Broad in Durban in the 2007 World T20.
However, Gibbs is best remembered for the remarkable 434 match against Australia in the 2006 ODI in Johannesburg. The 2349th ODI was a record-breaking match, with Ricky Ponting’s brilliant 164 helping Australia to a record 434/4 in 50 overs, the highest-ever score in ODIs. In response, Gibbs launched a breath-taking assault. He notched up his century off 79 balls and he ended up with a mind-boggling 175 off 11 balls, including 21 fours and seven sixes as South Africa chased down 434 to win a dramatic ODI.
In the 872 runs scored on that day, Gibbs’ 175 was hailed as one of the knocks for the ages and it established him as one of the best at that time. At the same venue in the 2003 World Cup earlier, Gibbs struck a magnificent 143 against New Zealand but at that time, New Zealand were boosted by a knock of 134 from Stephen Fleming as the Proteas were stunned.
The other lasting incident that cricket lovers will remember Gibbs for was his dropped catch off Steve Waugh in the 1999 World Cup encounter in Leeds. Waugh, who was steadying Australia, flicked a full ball to mid wicket where Gibbs took the catch but in trying to celebrate, he could not control the ball and ended up spilling the catch. Waugh, apparently, at that time told Gibbs, "You have just dropped the World Cup, maite." The drop proved costly and Australia won the match to qualify for the semi-finals where they again met South Africa. The match ended in a tie and South Africa exited the tournament in the most cruel manner.
Although his image might have been tarnished by the match-fixing scandal, there is no denying that Gibbs is one of the best batsmen South Africa has ever produced.