Surprise packet

All-rounder Andy Bichel played a vital role in Australia's World Cup triumph.-Pic. REUTERS

HIS heart was as huge as the arena. Andrew Bichel had earned this moment and he was going to make it count.

You could glimpse it in his eyes, his passion for the game, his desire for glory. He had been on the fringes for most part. Not any longer. This was his opportunity and he was going to grab it. A man with a mission, a soldier with a cause. Bichel was certainly all that and more.

When the chips were down for the Aussies, he bobbed up. There was so much fight in his cricket, so much spunk. A team-man no captain can refuse.

With the ball he would come steaming in and holding the willow he would be a picture of defiance. Could a side ask for more?

The injury to Jason Gillespie had provided him with an opening. And he was not the kind to spurn chances.

Australia's last league clash at Port Elizabeth saw Bichel reserving his best for the `Old Enemy.' It was indeed a day when Bichel was England's nemesis.

When England batted, it was not the feared Glenn McGrath or Jason Gillespie who dealt the killer blows. It was the unglamorous Bichel who emerged the surprise packet.

In fact, England was chugging along smoothly with openers Marcus Trescothick and Nick Knight laying a sound platform when Bichel struck.

On a rather double paced pitch he operated splendidly, cutting a swathe through the English line-up, now taking the ball away, now getting it to nip back, giving very little away.

The pressure built up on the Englishmen and they wilted. Bichel whipped up astonishing figures of seven for 20 and Nasser Hussian's men wound up at an unsatisfying 204 for eight. Lively, but not express, Bichel's movement off the seam lends the cutting edge to his bowling.

It had been a sensational display. However, Bichel was far from being finished for the day. England fought back marvellously on a dramatic afternoon, reducing Australia to 135 for eight and the target of 205 appeared more distant with every passing over.

However, Bichel's resolve was tigerish. Master finisher Michael Bevan sought support and Bichel was equal to the task; there was an air of confidence about his methods at the crease.

The two gradually enabled the Aussies claw back into the game and when the winning blow was struck with just two deliveries remaining in the contest, Bichel remained unbeaten on a gallant 34.

He was well on his way and it was Bichel again who stood between Kiwis and a semifinal berth at the same venue. Shane Bond had turned in a destructive spell to send Australia reeling at 84 for seven and the jubilant Stephen Fleming's men were sniffing at victory.

The calm and unruffled Bichel had very different ideas. With Bevan donning the role of an anchor one more time, Bichel baulked the New Zealanders, his priceless 64 containing several brave strokes. The Aussies sneaked to 208, a score that would prove beyond the reach of the Kiwis.

Bichel's invaluable 19 not out against Sri Lanka in the semifinal, again at Port Elizabeth, and then his 10 searching overs for just 18 runs, were more poof of his commitment and zest.

The indomitable Andrew Bichel deserved to finish on the winning side. Port Elizabeth will tell you tales of his character and courage.

S. Dinakar