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2000s in Review

Wisden’s ODI spell of the 2000s, No.1: Andy Bichel’s 7-20

Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner 3 minute read

Wisden’s ODI spell of the 2000s is Andy Bichel’s 7-20 against England in the 2003 World Cup, a great performance from an unlikely source.

Andy Bichel 7-20

Australia v England, 2003 World Cup
Port Elizabeth
March 2, 2003

Had Jason Gillespie been fit, Andy Bichel wouldn’t even have played this game. He had featured in only two of Australia’s five 2003 World Cup games up until this point, rotated in for low-key clashes with Namibia and the Netherlands before being rotated out again just as quietly.

That had largely been the story of his career up until this point, Bichel coming into the tournament with a bowling average of 34 and a batting average of 15. It’s tempting to say, but it’s not true that every journeyman has his day; that’s what makes it all the more special when they do, and Bichel embraced his moment joyfully and fully.

In a match involving six players who would be picked in Wisden’s ODI team of the 2000s, Bichel was the star, and Australia needed him to be too. When he was introduced into the attack, England had got off to a rare flier, and Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee had taken an even rarer pounding, the score reading 66-0 after nine overs. After a Bichel burst of three wickets in eight balls, Australia were back on top.

The first, Nick Knight caught in the cordon, was straight from the McGrath playbook: Steepling bounce and a hint of away movement on a fifth stump line. The next two were Hall of Fame beauties, a pair of 90mph wobble seamers zoning in on off stump, Michael Vaughan feathering through, and Nasser Hussain’s off stump pegged back.

England were forced to retreat, and Bichel gave them virtually no chance to counter-attack. When Paul Collingwood did deign to throw his hands at a wider one, another catch to Gilchrist was the result.

Bichel was withdrawn from the attack, and the slow rebuild began. Australia wouldn’t strike again until his reintroduction, when three late wickets derailed England’s pursuit of late runs. Not a single boundary was hit off his bowling all innings.

Bichel’s work on the day wasn’t quite done, with his 34 not out from No.9 rescuing Australia’s ailing chase. He had cemented his place for the rest of the tournament, though a half-century against New Zealand was the only other performance of note. And that was the Bichel story just about done. Already 32, he would never again take more than two wickets in an innings, and in under a year’s time, his international career would be finished.

Unlike most of the other spells on this list, this wasn’t a crowning moment of an all-timer, or a performance to signal the emergence of someone special. Really, what makes it great is the lack of those things. Sometimes brilliance comes from where we least expect it.

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