Memorable Match - Australia v England, 2003 World Cup

02 Jun 2015

I (218)

If officials were to induct players into cricket's Hall of Fame based on their character and commitment to the team alone, one name in the modern history would be at the top of this list - Andy Bichel.

Often sportsmen and women are judged by their split second decisions, millimetres and numbers. Aside from when they make an indiscretion, rarely are sportspeople judged on their character and what they bring to the team alongside those moments in time. But it was on a bright sunny day in Port Elizabeth during the 2003 ICC World Cup clash between Australia and England that one of the good guys in cricket had a day that many Australian and cricket fans across the world will never forget.

Having missed the opening few matches of the tournament, the fiercely passionate and committed Bichel had been working behind the scenes to ensure that when he got to chance to represent his beloved Australia, he would be ready to step up to the plate.

"I was the fittest I had been for a long time," he said.

"I was training so hard at every session. With a week in between matches I was able to do lots of gym sessions with the fitness trainer (so) I was ready to go - all I needed was a chance."

Having resigned himself to the fact that this chance wouldn't come against England, Bichel headed out to dinner with some friends, having again prepared as best he could for the team. Little did he know that upon his return to the hotel later that evening he would receive a message that would provide him the opportunity for which he had long been waiting.

"I had gone for a BBQ at a friend's house for a massive feed and a few beers. I returned to the hotel about 10.00pm and I had a message on the phone in my hotel room. It was Ricky Ponting saying that I should be ready to go tomorrow as Dizzy has pulled up very sore after training," he said.

Despite being one of the fittest players to grace a cricket field, not even Bichel would have predicted what would transpire the next day.

Batting first, the England's opening partnership of Marcus Trescothick and Nick Knight had started brightly, scoring at over a run a ball for the first nine overs. It was a rare that Ponting needed to turn to his other bowlers inside the first 10 overs, as Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee would often strike an early blow or two.

Needing a spark, Ponting turned to Bichel for an answer and boy, it was the answer to every captain's dream.

It took Bichel just five balls to put a smile on his captain's face. Knight was caught at slip by Damien Martyn from a ball that just left the opening batsmen outside his off stump.

As the team circled him, full of beaming smiles and joy for their mate, Bichel glistened like a cage fighter who knew the job had only just begun. There was more for him to achieve for himself and more importantly, his team, that afternoon.

Bich ArticleIn his second over, Bichel would produce quite possibly the two balls of the tournament. The first was a ball that moved away ever so slightly and found the edge of Michael Vaughan's bat and landed into the safe hands of Adam Gilchrist. The second was a ball that any fast bowler sees as perfection: one that pitches in line and moves away slightly to take the top of off stump. The look on England captain Nasser Hussain's face summed it up; it was a beauty.

"I always had this thing for captains - I just wanted their wicket so bad. To match that, I also wanted the best player in the team, and look some days it doesn't work, but when it does it puts you in a great position as  a team. That day there wasn't a lot of movement around so it was good to get a couple off the straight," a typically modest Bichel recalled.

Bichel completed his 10 overs, claiming the important scalps of Alec Stewart and Freddie Flintoff on his way to claiming a mind boggling 7/20, without question one of the great spells of bowling in World Cup history.

Leading the team off the field, Bichel recalled that the team knew the job was only half done.

"After knocking them over for 204 I was taking it all in really. I had a thing with Mike Young and we would go to the nets for throw downs before every time I batted. Before we knew it, we were in the nets having some throws but we had to come back early as wickets were falling quickly."

The Aussies got their innings off to a shaky start with Matthew Hayden, Gilchrist and Martyn all back in the pavilion within the first five overs with the score at 3-33. The next to go was the skipper, Ponting out for 18 and after 8.4 overs, a day that had started so brightly was looking a little grim with Australia 4/48.

A solid partnership of 63 between the every-reliable Michael Bevan and Darren Lehmann saw the Aussie run chase back on track, before the latter lost his wicket to his brother in-law, Craig White. Australia was now 5/111, still needing a further 94 runs to claim victory with 21 overs remaining.

The English were not going to go away, given they were playing to stay in the tournament. Three consecutive wickets had them believing they were on their way to achieving the result they needed. Australia was now 8/135 with 12.2 over remaining and 70 runs away from victory.

Bichel, who only hours before was on top of the world, found himself in a position where he had to forget about the moment that had passed and focus on the team. It was a position he thrived in throughout his career for his beloved Bulls and Australia.

Striding to the crease he was met by a steely Bevan and recalled those initial moments.

"We had been in this situation a couple times before, but this was a few more runs than we had chased previously. I remember saying, 'Let's just see if we can get a partnership going and I will give you the strike - how's that?'. Bev just looked at me as I walked to face the music! It wasn't long before he was giving me some good advice about their bowlers and his confidence was growing in me ball by ball."

As so often was the case throughout his career, Bevan was again the man in charge to guide Australia home. But this time there he got more than a little help from his partner. Although Bevan ended the innings not out on 74, it was Bichel who also took the fight up to the opposition - as only he knew how.

"It was a flat wicket I felt; after growing up on the Gabba this was placid! Plus, I wasn't enjoying batting at 10 and the only way to get away from 10 was to get a score or get a not out. At least then you had something to take to the bargaining table when it came up for discussion."

And score he did.

Bichel fittingly was there at the end having scored 34 off 36 deliveries to help guide Australia to victory.

On 2 March 2003, England was bundled out of the World Cup thanks largely to the performance of Andy Bichel. It was moment in time when one of the great team men stood head and shoulders above his mates for the world to see. Not that he would ever allow you to believe he did it alone.

Click here for the scorecard.