World Cup Cricket News
Report By Jon Cocks
World records are rare and precious things. The eleven consecutive cricket ODI victories by the great West Indian side of the 1980s looked to be a monolith that might be too steep for any subsequent international combination to climb, but this World Cup has thrown up all kinds of new precedents.
Chaminda Vaas of Sri Lanka managed a hat trick from the first three balls of a match. Kenya – as yet not a Test nation – appeared to have won through to the Super Six. On March 2, 2003, Australia crashed through that West Indian glass ceiling.
England looked to have its final Group A match won when it needed just two more Australian wickets, with the World Champions more than 70 runs adrift of victory. However, it reckoned without the heroics of Andy Bichel, whose 34* and 7-20 must rate as the greatest performance by a replacement player in the history of the World Cup. And there was – of course – the matter of an unbeaten 74 by one Michael Bevan, whose only other innings in this tournament was a rusty 17 from 42 balls against Namibia.
Former England cricketer Mike Selvey noted ironically before the match that England might consider forfeiting its last Group A match against Australia to protect its Net Run Rate of 1.07, hoping that three wins would be enough to make the Super Six Round. Andy Bichel replaced Jason Gillespie, whose Achilles tendon problem had not cleared up. England brought Giles in for Irani.
After winning the toss, batting and making 8-204 from the fifty overs on a pitch that that promised runs but rewarded a straight line and a good length, England’s summer of denial against its oldest enemy picked up where it left off after the VB Series Second Final in Melbourne. Its innings could be divided into four definable parts.
Openers Trescothick (36) and Knight (30) rattled Australia initially to the tune of 66 inside the first ten overs. Enter Andy Bichel. Bowling full and straight, his 10-0-20-7 became the second best ever World Cup bowling figures after McGrath’s 7-15 vs Namibia three days earlier. England lost 5-21 in the second ten overs. Stewart and Flintoff batted for twenty-two overs and added 90, but the final eight overs saw three more wickets fall for 27.
Trescothick and Knight sought to attack from the word go, with Trescothick cutting McGrath twice for boundaries in the first over and Knight worked Lee to the mid wicket rope. Trescothick hooked Lee for six and both batsmen ran sharp singles to maintain a run a ball. Eleven came from the eighth over and thoughts turned to the 650-run match last year, in which Ponting and Lehmann batted down a 325 target to beat South Africa.
Andy Bichel replaced Lee (9-0-58-0) to bowl the tenth over and found the edge with his second ball for Martyn to take a good diving catch at a wide first slip. With the first ball of his second over, Bichel nipped one away from Vaughan (2) for Gilchrist to accept the edge and then knocked back the off stump of Hussain (1) to have 3-3 from two overs.
At 3-74 - drier than the most austere French Brut that appears to be his favoured tipple - David Gower observed that England’s total had assumed far more familiar proportions. With the first ball of his next over, McGrath (9-2-41-1) removed any remnant sparkle of England’s effervescent start, finding an edge from Trescothick for Martyn to take another sharp slips catch to send back Trescothick.
Brad Hogg (10-1-28-0) replaced McGrath and Collingwood (10) – hitting with the spin – whipped his first ball over mid wicket for six. However, Hogg soon settled into his rhythm, turning the ball sharply, landing the wrong’uns and flippers and keeping the clamps on the scoring. Bichel moved one away from Collingwood to find the edge and Gilchrist did the rest
Darren Lehmann (10-0-34-0) joined Hogg in the middle overs, as Stewart (46) and Flintoff (45) were denied anything more than nudged singles. The best ground fielding ever – as described by Ian Healy –supported the very tidy slow bowling. The pressure was released briefly, as the brief experiment of two medium-paced overs from Symonds piled 20 quick runs into the England cause, before that easy avenue was blocked off.
Andy Bichel’s return to the bowling crease choked any late resistance. He removed Flintoff (caught by Gilchrist from a top-edged pull), Stewart (bowled) and Giles (caught overhead by Bevan at mid off), as England fell a tad short of a competitive total.
Australia raced from the blocks as usual, but Hayden (1) top-edged a pull from Caddick on a pitch that was holding up and Giles held a straightforward catch at mid on. Gilchrist (22) smashed four quick boundaries, but he lashed Caddick to third man where Vaughan juggled but held a catch. Martyn (0) was unlucky to be adjudged LBW to Caddick from the third ball he faced, which pitched outseide off and went across him and struck him just above the knee roll.
When Ponting (18) holed out to Giles from Caddick (9-2-35-2), Australia had slumped to 4-48 and some stability was urgently needed. This came in the form of Darren Lehmann (37), who used the crease superbly. Walking across outside off, he worked the bowling into the onside gaps. Taking guard outside leg, he drew the bowler’s line to off stump, from where he was able to take runs square on the off side.
Anderson (9-0-66-0) was expensive early, but the introduction of Flintoff (9.4-1-26-0), White (10-2-21-1) and Giles (10-0-42-2) respectively applied the clamps on a wicket that steadily slowed down. Lehmann and Bevan worked the bowling for singles, as the nagging England medium pacers denied room to swing the arms. The fifty partnership came at around three an over. The rapid early scoring allowed crucial breathing space.
The Lehmann/Bevan partnership of 63 was broken by a perfectly pitched, sharply jagging off-cutter from White to his brother-in-law Lehmann, who edged it and was superbly caught by the seemingly ageless Alec Stewart. The match was again in the balance. Hussain, sensing a famous victory, began rotating his bowlers in very short spells and Andy Symonds (0) hit a return catch to Giles shortly afterwards.
Hogg was caught by Stewart from Giles for one and England sensed its first ODI win over its Old Enemy in four years. At 7-114, Australia was on the ropes. Brett Lee laboured to get the crafty medium pacers of White away . Getting grip and exaggerated cut from the pitch, Andrea Lehmann’s brother shaped as a match-winner, while Giles was equally awkward to negotiate as the wicket allowed more grip and turn.
Nevertheless, the indefatigable Michael Bevan continued to work the ball, while Lee worked hard in support, despite being unable to come to terms with the pitch. When Bevan turned one behind square, a brilliant return from White caught Lee a couple of centimetres short of his ground, but Australia a full 80 runs short of its sixth straight win in this World Cup and the world record of twelve consecutive ODI victories.
However, the cricket gods reckoned without the dauntless spirit and under-rated batting skill of Andy Bichel. They already knew about Bevan, but with England steadily forcing the asking rate closer to a run-a-ball, all indicators pointed towards the odds finding against Australia, under the premise that you can’t win all the time.
With just four men inside the circle from over number forty onwards, Hussain’s men gradually tightened the screws. However, Bevan (twice) and Bichel (once) crashed lofted boundaries to deny England the psychological advantage of Australia requiring more than a run-a-ball. Finally, however, the desperate Englishmen - rotating White, Flintoff, Giles, Anderson and Caddick almost every over – pushed Australia’s asking rate above the definitive run-a-ball.
With 13 needed from 11, England might have felt in its long-suffering heart that elusive victory over its long-time nemesis was at hand. But the best – or worst, depending on one’s allegiance – was to come. Anderson bowled to Andy Bichel, who smeared the ball into the top of the electronic scoreboard in the single greatest blow of his cricket career. The ebullient Barmy Army was silenced mid-chant.
Bichel followed that up with a boundary and then a single that tied the scores, leaving the indefatigible Michael Bevan the honour of hitting the winning runs. Indomitable Australia stole a two-wicket win with two balls to spare against the old enemy England, whose 2003 World Cup fate now rested – ironically - in the hands of Zimbabwe, the four-point beneficiary of England’s refusal to play its Group A match in Harare.