Bichel’s heroics

Sachin Tendulkar receives the Player of the 2003 World Cup trophy from Sir Garfield Sobers at the Wanderers on March 23. Tendulkar was at his aggressive best against Pakistan at the Centurion.-V. V. KRISHNAN

There were a number of seamers with the ability to bend the ball in the air and off the wicket who reaped big rewards in the competition. One of the top-notch performers was Australia’s Andy Bichel. He did not figure in the matches against Pakistan, India and Zimbabwe, but showed his all-round ability in the crucial match against England at St. George’s Park, Port Elizabeth (March 2).

Marcus Trescothick and Nick Knight had laid the foundation with a 66-run stand before Bichel came into the picture and removed Knight, Michael Vaughan, Nasser Hussain, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Alec Stewart and Ashley Giles to restrict England to 204 for eight wickets. Having taken seven for 20 in 10 overs, Bichel then showed his prowess with the bat in the company of Michael Bevan.

Andrew Caddick (4 for 35) had done enough damage to bring England back into the contest, but Bevan and Bichel averted a humiliation with a match-winning 73-run stand for the ninth wicket.

Bond’s shock treatment

A superb practitioner with the new ball, Shane Bond was a treat to watch, as he single-handedly brought Australia to its knees at St. George’s Park, Port Elizabeth (March 11). He removed the top four Australian batsmen — Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn — as the Trans-Tasman rivalry gained momentum. Australia was 84 for six when Bond dismissed Ian Harvey, and it seemed curtains for Ponting’s team. However, against the run of play, Australia’s renowned one-day specialist Michael Bevan and Andy Bichel stitched together a 97-run partnership to help their team recover to 208. Australia then successfully defended the total.

Though Bond’s great effort (six for 23) turned out to be for a lost cause, he earned plaudits for his ability to move the ball at great speed and shock the Australian batsmen.

Symonds on song

Shane Warne’s ejection from the World Cup turned out to be a big blow for Australia. And in its first match of the tournament against Pakistan (Johannesburg, February 11), the team appeared to be in the doldrums after left-arm seamer Wasim Akram got rid of Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Damien Martyn, and Waqar Younis sent back Jimmy Maher. With Australia at 86 for four, Pakistan had its tail up. However, Andrew Symonds had other ideas. He repelled the Pakistan attack with a flurry of strokes and in a matter of time, the tide changed. He and skipper Ricky Ponting put on 60 for the fifth wicket. Symonds went on to score a masterly 143 not out (125 balls, 18x4, 2x6) and take Australia to 310 for eight. His century was the first big effort in the competition and it helped Australia make a positive start.

Flaming Fleming

Nobody gave New Zealand a chance after South Africa had set a target of 307, riding on the back of Herschelle Gibbs’ century (143 off 141 balls, 19x4, 3x6), in Johannesburg (February 16). The Wanderers was preparing for a home win, but skipper Stephen Fleming & Co. had other plans.

Following rain interference, New Zealand’s target was revised to 229, and Fleming’s calculated hitting resulted in a fantastic victory for his side.

The brilliant left-hander showed the way first with Craig McMillan, his opening partner, and then won the match for New Zealand in the company of Nathan Astle. Fleming (134 not out) played some exquisite strokes; he also hit some brutal shots over the fielders to stun the South African pace attack of Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Lance Klusener and Jacques Kallis.

Hurricane called Sachin

A sell-out crowd at the Centurion — almost all of them waving the Tricolour — witnessed one of the most powerful batting displays in the competition when Sachin Tendulkar set about the task of overhauling Pakistan’s 273. The champion batsman, dropped earlier in the innings, went after the Pakistan fast and seam attack of Shoaib Akhtar, Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram and Abdul Razzaq. He cut fiercely, pulled with as much intensity and drove in front of the wicket to deal a psychological blow to the Pakistan players.

Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly fell early, but Tendulkar sustained his powerful hitting before falling two runs short of a century. Later, Mohammed Kaif, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh gathered runs at their own pace to ensure a great win for India.

G. Viswanath