AUSSIE RESILIENCE ON SHOW
Australia v England • St. George’s Park,
Port Elizabeth, 2 March 2003
Even given that an Australia-England face-off invariably has the adrenalin pumping, this match had enough excitement to make a whole tournament memorable. An old hand and a new star – albeit not-so-young – eked out an improbable victory for the defending champions just when they seemed vulnerable. It was indeed a classic contest, reminiscent of the thrilling Pakistan-West Indies encounter at Edgbaston in 1975.
England openers Nick Knight and Marcus Trescothick raced to 50 off 7.1 overs. A 160.1 kph (99.4 mph) thunderbolt from Brett Lee to Knight, the fastest of the event thus far, made no impact. The tide turned as Andy Bichel came on in the 10th over. At 66, he had Knight caught in the gully by Damien Martyn. In his next over, Bichel had Michael Vaughan caught behind, and spread-eagled Nasser Hussain’s stumps. Glenn McGrath removed Trescothick. Bichel had Paul Collingwood nicking to Adam Gilchrist. In eight overs England lost five wickets for 19 runs. Bichel had four for 12 from a six-over spell.
Alec Stewart and Andrew Flintoff effected another twist. They battled for nearly 25 overs to put on 90. The irrepressible Bichel again broke through. He had Flintoff snapped up by Gilchrist, and castled Stewart too. He added Giles to his bag, finishing with seven for 20, second-best in the World Cup after McGrath’s effort against Namibia three days earlier.
Any Australian complacency was ripped away by Andy Caddick. He picked up Matthew Hayden early, and though Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting tried to dominate, he dismissed the wicketkeeper. He trapped Martyn for a duck and sent back the skipper too. Australia reeled at 48 for four. Darren Lehmann and Michael Bevan staged a rearguard before another spate of wickets. At 114 for seven, Australia seemed to be faltering at last. Soon it was 135 for eight as Lee was run out.
Bevan and Bichel dug themselves in. Could ‘Terminator’ Bevan do it again? Would he get necessary support? Bichel was a man inspired. He had come through the ranks. A perpetual reserve, he was in only due to Jason Gillespie’s Achilles tendon injury. He bowled with abandon in this match, as always. Now he batted with determination.
The pair stood firm but the overs were running out. With 14 runs to get off two overs, Bichel chanced his arm against James Anderson. He clouted a slower ball over mid-wicket for six, and on-drove a boundary. Eleven runs came off the over. Finally, Bevan hit Flintoff’s fourth ball to the mid-wicket fence to raise an amazing victory. The stand was worth 73 runs off 74 balls. It was a stupendous turnaround. Bichel would no longer be an aspirant relegated to the bench. There was glee on his face: “To get seven wickets, then be there when the winning runs are scored and walk off having scored 34 not out from no.10. It’s hard to even dream about those days.” Ponting offered another perspective, “England allowed a lot of doubt to creep into their minds and asked themselves: Is this going to be another day when the Australians get up and steal the game away from us just like before.” Actually, for Australia defeat was never an option.
England : 204 for 8 wickets (50 overs)
New Zealand : 208 for 8 wickets (49.4 overs)
(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email email@example.com).
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