Australia v Zimbabwe, VB Series, 9th ODI, Adelaide January 26, 2004

The master isn't finished yet

Michael Bevan: proved that he was far from finished
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When an international team is treated with so much disdain that one-day internationals are reduced to practice matches, you cannot help but feel that something is fundamentally wrong. And no, Bangladesh aren't out in Australia for this edition of the VB Series. Zimbabwe, for all the bottle they have showed, have never looked like winning a game. Sure, they ran India close, made a great fist of chasing 281, but simply never looked like they had enough in reserve to go past the finish line.

The Adelaide Oval provided the perfect setting, yet in cricketing terms the stage simply wasn't there. With a mere three points, Zimbabwe stand no chance of progressing to the next round. India were the first to fully exploit this, using games against Zimbabwe to get players into form, tinker with the batting order and give bowlers a chance to find rhythm. Australia did exactly the same.

Michael Bevan was short of runs and time out in the middle. But, given his reputation as world's best finisher, built over years, this dip in performance was not be a major cause for worry. That said, Australia would want Bevan to be at his best when they take on India in the best of three finals in February. Bevan certainly did his bit, playing himself in against Zimbabwe. There was nothing in the bowling to inspire fear, and Bevan had all the time in the world to get his feet moving and find the gaps. Most importantly, he had a chance to get his timing right.

The series has not been a good one for Bevan so far. Scores of 1, 3, 7, 41 and 12 leading up to this game set the loose tongues wagging. Was the finisher finished? His strength has never been the flourish. What made him a great cricketer was the fact he knew his game inside out. He was a cricketer matured to the extent that he knew himself. He backed certain shots - the tuck off the hips, the swishy drive through cover and of course the trademark chip over the infield. The truth is, there are always runs to be had. Unless a bowler was particularly on song, and holding a great line and length, there are always runs for the taking.

In this respect, Bevan was the master. He looked to pinch at least a single off every ball. Often he had planted his front foot, deflected the ball and set off for a run no sooner had the ball left the blade. Several cricketers have tried to play the same way, eschewing big hits, but none were able to master the mindset, with only Jonty Rhodes coming close. This was the feel for the ball, and the game sense, that Bevan needed to recapture before the finals. Zimbabwe's bowling proved to be ideal in this regard. While Heath Streak was tidy, and could bowl tight spells, the rest of the bowling was too one-dimensional. Ray Price attacked the stumps, but did not spin the ball enough or have the variation to set Bevan off his game.

In careful fashion Bevan accumulated the runs. No. 4 is a position Bevan loves to bat at. While he averages 54.45 in all positions, he scores close to 60 runs a dig at No. 4. Half his six centuries have come in this position. He did those stats no harm at all with a 91-ball 75 that formed the backbone of Australia's 279. Against this Zimbabwe team, low on confidence, lower still on success, that total was just enough to seal victory. At the end of the day, when Bevan puts his feet up heaving a sigh of relief, he will have only one regret - that his name in the scorebook was in black ink rather than red. He's been not out 66 times out of 226 in his career, and would have loved another one.