South Africa savours "greatest game ever"

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JOHANNESBURG, Mar 13 (Reuters) South Africa was jubilant today after a stunning one-wicket victory in the highest-scoring one-day international clinched a 3-2 series win over Australia.

In cricket or rugby, no victory is as sweet for sports-mad South Africans as one over arch-rival Australia. And few conquests will match yesterday's game that has already been dubbed the greatest one-day match ever.

''438/9: Choke on this, Aussies!,'' screamed the Johannesburg Star newspaper.

The normally staid financial daily Business Day had a front page photograph of South African players Makhaya Ntini and Herschelle Gibbs celebrating on the pitch under the caption: ''On Top Of The World.'' From morning radio shows to offices, talk this morning in South Africa was dominated by the game.

''Every person that has come in this morning has been talking about the cricket. It's all that matters at the moment,'' said George Glynos, a markets analyst at Johannesburg's Econometrix Treasury Management.

South Africans are notoriously fickle sports fans and yesterday's heroic win did much to lift their spirits after a spate of dismal performances on the field.

The national soccer squad made an ignominious exit from the African Nations Cup finals earlier this year, failing to score a single goal let alone win a match.

It was another blow to soccer in South Africa, which will host the 2010 World Cup finals but failed to qualify for the event this year in Germany.

South Africa's cricket squad also had a disappointing test series and triangular ODI tournament in Australia recently.

The Afrikaans-daily newspaper ''Beeld'' had a headline that said it all: ''Record Breakers!''.

No team before yesterday had ever scored more than 400 runs in a one-day game -- underscoring the scale of the task faced by the South Africans as they chased Australia's monumental total of 434. They ended up with 438.

A record 872 runs were scored in total. The previous record was 693 when India beat Pakistan by five runs in Karachi in March 2004.

REUTERS PM SP1302

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