Full name Craig Neil Evans
Born November 29, 1969, Salisbury (now Harare)
Current age 45 years 159 days
Major teams Zimbabwe, Mashonaland, Mashonaland Country Districts, Mashonaland Under-24s, Matabeleland
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm medium
Education Falcon College
|Test debut||Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe at Colombo (RPS), Sep 11-14, 1996 scorecard|
|Last Test||Australia v Zimbabwe at Perth, Oct 9-13, 2003 scorecard|
|ODI debut||Zimbabwe v India at Harare, Oct 25, 1992 scorecard|
|Last ODI||Zimbabwe v Pakistan at Harare, Dec 1, 2002 scorecard|
|Last First-class||Mashonaland v Midlands at Harare, Mar 19-20, 2004 scorecard|
|List A debut||1990/91|
|Last List A||Mashonaland v Midlands at Harare, Feb 12, 2004 scorecard|
A talented all-round sportsman, Craig Evans' career tells a story of a frustrating inability to turn potential into results at the top as a young man, a gradual drift into the fringes of selection, and a brief renaissance that, disappointingly, could not quite be turned into a World Cup farewell. A tall, strong, athletic figure, Evans was a scratch golfer and a rugby international for Zimbabwe, at fullback. Earmarked as a limited-overs specialist early in his career, he made his international debut at 22 in the solitary one-day game during India's inaugural visit in 1992, but it was not until 1996 that he made himself a regular in the one-day side, and he was part of Zimbabwe's squad for the World Cup that year.
Although he had a quiet World Cup in the midst of an unsuccessful Zimbabwe campaign, an aggressive, unbeaten 96 against Sri Lanka in Colombo during the Singer World Series in August 1996 suggested he had matured enough to be able to blossom as a one-day batsman. Less than five months later, in January 1997, adventurous innings of 40 and 43 set up a tie and a thrilling three-wicket win over India - Zimbabwe's first in ODIs - during the Standard Bank One-Day Series in South Africa.
But, after an extended run in the side, his returns with bat and ball began to dip, and Evans fell out of contention before the World Cup in England in 1999. After two unsuccessful Test matches and 49 one-day internationals for Zimbabwe with just one fifty and 19 wickets to his credit, many wrote him off as a talented but undisciplined player who had wasted his ability and it appeared his international career had come to an end. But he continued to play domestic cricket and with age found new perspective and a maturity in his game, working hard and eventually enjoying the fruits of his labour with some remarkable returns.
In March 2000 he helped set a new record partnership for any wicket in Zimbabwean cricket history, putting together 330 for the third wicket with Dirk Viljoen on his way to 153 - at the time his highest first-class score - as Mashonaland overcame a first-innings deficit before Evans then chipped in with 4 for 5 to seal a highly improbably 276-run win. He set his sights on a place at the World Cup in 2003, and in 2001-02 - the season before the big tournament - he enjoyed a prolific run with the bat. Evans made four centuries in four matches, culminating in his game-changing 210 against Manicaland that he followed up with 6 for 37 to inspire a 73 run win after Mashonaland had followed on.
Another century at the start of the 2002-03 season finally persuaded the selectors that he deserved another try at international level. At the age of almost 33, he made his return to the one-day side against the touring Pakistan team. In the first one-day international Pakistan ran up 302 for 4 and Zimbabwe were reeling at 32 for 4 when Evans came to the wicket. Beginning cautiously, he dug in and then began to bat more aggressively in partnership with Andy Flower. The pair added 135 together and had given Zimbabwe hope of a remarkable victory when a tragic mix-up led to Evans being run out.
With that, the dream began to fade. Three failures followed, and the selectors, ignoring the quality of that innings, dropped him again without giving him a chance to show what he could do against Kenya. He missed the final World Cup cut, and though he was included in Zimbabwe's Test side for their inaugural match in Australia later that year he was axed as the visitors were handed an innings and 175-run thrashing at Perth, so ending his career in international cricket.
Liam Brickhill August 2010
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