A medium paced wobbler that transformed into an off spinner when he couldn’t be arsed to run up in later life will always earn great respect from any seasoned cricketer. But twin that with a batting style that looked like Babe Ruth crossed with a particularly violent lumberjack, and you have the stuff of legend.
Astonishingly, Lance Klusener began his first class career as a slippery fast bowler who batted at number 11. By 1996 he was in the South African one day side, and was drafted into the Test squad for the tour of India later that year. Having been boshed aroundCalcuttaon Test debut in the first innings, he then responded with a career best 8/64 in the second innings. He will never be remembered for his bowling or his Test match performances though.
In one day cricket Klusener was an absolute beast. His bowling may have drifted more and more into the Chris Harris category as his career wore on, but that mattered little. Over 171 internationals, “Zulu” averaged more than 40 with the bat at a strike rate of near-on 90 and less than 30 with the ball at an economy of 4.7. Of course, it was for the 1999 World Cup that he will be remembered. Firstly, for his utter disdain for anyone clutching a white ball in the latter stages of the innings. Averaging a scarcely credible 134 at considerably better than a run a ball, he also found time to chip in with 14 wickets at 20.
He even managed to save his best for the Australians, slamming a violent 36 off of 21 balls in the super 6′s. He wouldn’t have had to play them again had Herschelle Gibbs not thrown the ball on the floor to reprieve Steve Waugh later in the game, but in the resultant semi final he was even better. Already on 23 from 12 balls, he was left to score 9 off of the last over with only Allan Donald for company, and promptly slapped two fours off of the first two balls. Of course, what came next was to become the second reason the 1999 World Cup is synonymous with Lance Klusener….
His career coughed and spluttered from then on, but the legend had been made. T20 came just too late for him, which in itself is a tragedy. But for one tournament at least, there was no more thrilling or destructive sight than Lance Klusener in full flow.