SK Flashback: Aussie resilience on show as they beat England in a thriller at 2003 World Cup

Australian bowler Andy Bichel celebrates
Australian bowler Andy Bichel celebrates

Some matches are out of schoolboys’ tales, of miraculous deeds and heroic acts, of occurrences that border on the realms of fantasy.

Even given that an Australia-England face-off invariably has the adrenaline pumping, this match at the 2003 World Cup 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 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 up to that point, 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, after which Bichel had Paul Collingwood nicking to Adam Gilchrist. In eight overs England had 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. But the irrepressible Bichel broke through again. He had Flintoff snapped up by Gilchrist, and castled Stewart too. He added Ashley Giles to his bag, finishing with seven for 20, the second-best figures in the World Cup after McGrath’s effort against Namibia three days earlier.

Any Australian complacency during the chase of 204 was ripped away by Andy Caddick. He picked up Matthew Hayden early, and though Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting tried to dominate, he dismissed the explosive wicketkeeper.

Caddick 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 then 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. 11 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 absolute glee on his face when he said: “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), Australia: 208 for 8 wickets (49.4 overs)

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Edited by Musab Abid
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