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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 March, 2003, 07:22 GMT
Australia's surprise gem
By Oliver Brett
By BBC Sport in Port Elizabeth

Andy Bichel
Bichel has flourished after being given the chance to shine
The Sri Lankans should really thank Australia for giving them a chance in the big semi-final at Port Elizabeth.

If the Aussies had wanted to win early enough to spend the afternoon on the beach they might have tried opening both the batting and the bowling with Andy Bichel.

His two previous experiences on this ground were more spectacular than his efforts on Tuesday, but again he proved his immense worth to the Aussies.

He is a lot more than just a dogged bits-and-pieces cricketer. He is now producing world-class performances on a regular basis.

Despite batting at nine, Bichel's 19 not out against Sri Lanka gave him a tournament average in excess of 100.

He found batting far easier than the three batsmen who had preceded him in the order and helped Andrew Symonds collect enough runs in the last six overs to take Australia to a decent score.

If you're in a bit of trouble, you can rely on [Bichel] to bat out a few overs
Ricky Ponting

After the match, Australia captain Ricky Ponting said: "If you ask him he'll tell you he's the best number nine in world cricket. He's taken his chance with both hands.

"He wasn't in our side at the start of the tournament but every game he's played he's got better and better.

"You can treat him as a batsman really. He can hit some great cricket shots.

"If you're in a bit of trouble, you can rely on him to bat out a few overs and, if you need some quick runs, he can hit the ball over the top.

"The perfect lofted on-drive for six he despatched off the luckless Pulasthi Gunaratne in the penultimate over was reminiscent of some of the shots he hit in his crucial 64 against New Zealand here."

And while his bowling did not reach the heights of his brilliant seven for 20 against England, the real hammer blow for Sri Lanka came seconds after he bowled his first ball.

Sri Lanka were already on the rocks at 51 for four after 13 overs, but Aravinda de Silva was still there and the team had chosen to play eight batsmen, so there was cover.

BICHEL'S 2003 WORLD CUP
Runs: 117
Highest score: 64 vs NZ
Average: 117.0
Wickets: 15
Best haul: 7-20 vs England
Average: 9.3

Kumar Sangakkara was on strike and dropped the ball off his legs to short mid-wicket.

De Silva, now 37, does not have either the longest or the fastest legs in world cricket.

Bichel, immediately sensing an opportunity, picked up the ball, turned and released in one swift movement.

His aim was sure, the stumps were broken and de Silva did not even wait for the third umpire's verdict.

The golfer Nick Faldo once declared that he would like to dig up the 11th hole at Augusta and take it back to Britain.

Andy Bichel may feel the same about St George's Park, Port Elizabeth.

His best career one-day score and bowling figures were both claimed in this tournament and on this ground, in those stellar performances against England and New Zealand.

And now he has been a key part of another polished team effort that has propelled Australia to the World Cup final.




SEE ALSO
Rampant Australia through to final
18 Mar 03 |  World Cup
Jayasuriya: Batting let us down
18 Mar 03 |  Sri Lanka
Ponting: We need to improve
18 Mar 03 |  Australia
Have Your Say on Australia
04 Jan 03 |  Have Your Say
Have Your Say on Sri Lanka
04 Jan 03 |  Have Your Say


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