Cricket's greatest comebacks: Australia vs England, 2003 World Cup
There was something unique about the Australian team of the late 90s and the 2000s. Apart from remaining almost invincible, they possessed the ‘never-say-die’ spirit that helped them dominate the world of cricket. Be it 100 runs to win with a wicket in hand or 20 runs to be defended for five wickets, the men from the Kangaroo nation would not get deterred. The faces with baggy green often wore a smile rather than showing signs of remorse. And on most of those occasions, especially in One Day Internationals, there would be one man who would hog the limelight in clinical fashion. Yes, the same old Michael Bevan went on with his business yet another time, upsetting English hopes at the 2003 World Cup, this time, along with Andy Bichel.
It was a bright Sunday morning at Port Elizabeth and England was in a must-win situation after they forfeited their match against Zimbabwe owing to political reasons. The Englishmen were up against a fiery Australian side, but luck seemed to go the English way at the start, with Nasser Hussain winning the toss and opting to bat first. Marcus Trescothick and Nick Knight held the upper hand against an unusually wayward combo of Mcgrath and Lee, thwacking them to all corners of the park.
It was in the tenth over, Ricky Ponting threw the ball to Andy Bichel, who was in the eleven, after Jason Gillespie was injured midway through the tournament. Bichel was on the money right in his first over, sending Knight back to the pavilion. He followed it up in his next over, removing the dangerous Vaughan and captain Hussain off the first and last deliveries. Mcgrath got his man at the other end, while Bichel became even thirstier, showing Collingwood the way to the hut with the peach of a delivery outside the off-stump.
Andrew Flintoff and Alec Stewart began the rebuilding process with both making slowly paced forties, before Bichel was brought on for his second spell. And in the second over of his spell, he consumed an over-ambitious Flintoff and in his next over, Stewart lost his timber, and England looked all lost again. By the end of their innings, the Poms were able to put on a meagre 204 runs on the board for the loss of eight batsmen, with seven of them overpowered by Bichel, who returned figures of 7 for 20 from 10 overs.
For a star-studded top-order with the likes of Hayden, Gilchrist, Ponting and Martyn in its ranks, the Aussies were expected to make easy work of their traditional rivals. But English bowlers led by Andy Caddick and Andrew Flintoff seemed to possess different ideas as they bowled with zeal and confidence, hitting the right areas and sticking to stringent lines.
Matthew Hayden was the first batsman to be dismissed, unable to control his urge to play the big shots, placed the ball into Ashley Giles’ hands in the third over of the match. His opening partner Adam Gilchrist too followed suit, exactly two overs later, playing another rash shot off Caddick to find Vaughan in the deep. Damien Martyn was trapped LBW for a duck in the same over as English hopes of reaching the next stage of the tournament rose.
Ricky Ponting pulled Caddick for a six in the ninth over, but the joy didn’t last very long as the English bowler had his revenge the very next ball, giving him his fourth wicket in the match. Michael Bevan then joined Darren Lehmann in the middle to steady the Australian ship as English bowling barring the young Jimmy Anderson looked top-notch on the day. The flow of runs was arrested but Bevan and Lehmann played sensible cricket to build the Australian total towards the required target. The duo batted for almost 20 overs before White forced Lehmann(37) to edge one to a diving Stewart behind the stumps.
Andrew Symonds was then expected to lead the recovery but Giles had him caught off his own bowling for a duck in the next over and Brad Hogg too didn’t last long as Giles captured his second wicket two overs later. Brett lee tried to hold fort for some time before a brilliant piece of fielding from White consumed Lee, with Australia cliff-hanging on at 135/8, and 70 more runs required from 74 balls. Hussain’s camp witnessed premature celebrations unaware of the ‘Bevan’ factor at one end of the wicket.