April 25, 2002

Craig Evans: peaking at 32

Tall, burly all-rounder Craig Evans has had a chequered career for Zimbabwe. He played in two unsuccessful Test matches and 49 one-day internationals for Zimbabwe, the last 2½ years ago, with just one fifty and 19 wickets to his credit, and many wrote him off as a talented but undisciplined player who had wasted his ability. But now, at the age of 32, when most Zimbabwean players have hung up their boots, he believes he is in the best form of his career. He hit centuries in each of his four Logan Cup matches for Mashonaland this season, including 210 against Manicaland that enabled this team to win the match after being forced to follow-on. He talks to CricInfo about his achievements.

I think this has probably been my best season ever. I think I've matured as a player in the longer game, and I hope I can build on that for whatever cricket I may play from now on.

I think I'm a lot more circumspect nowadays in choosing what balls I should be playing and what I shouldn't be playing. Over the last four or five years I've been playing too often at balls I shouldn't have played, and got out. It's simple, basic cricket that I'm playing now - time at the crease, occupation of the crease - and I think that's why I've scored the runs I have this season. I think my concentration has been more circumspect recently, and that has helped me a lot this season.

I think my best innings was the double-hundred I got against Manicaland after being 300 behind and we had to knuckle down. Then at Harare Sports Club on a green pitch I got 163 against Midlands, which was quite a good one as well.

At Mutare we put Manicaland in to bat on a flat pitch but we didn't bowl particularly well, so they ended up getting 513. Guy Whittall batted very well for 247, but we didn't bat at all well; we gave our wickets away and ended up being bowled out for 226. They then made us follow on, and we ended up getting 506 batting properly in the second innings, and winning the game from there.

My personal game plan during my 210 was to leave as many balls as I could and score off the bad balls; I knew I was going to get a bad ball once every over or two. [210 off 274 balls suggests a little more frequently than that!] It's the normal cricket situation: once you're in and you settle down, you are going to get a lot more bad balls than when you first come in. I've faced stronger bowling, but for me a double-hundred in any form of cricket is still a double-hundred, and this was first-class. I think my highest score before that was 170, and it was quite nice to get a career best near the end of my career.

The pitch at the end started to break up a bit and do a little off the seam, and I took six for 37 and we won the game, so that made it a good all-round game for me. The ball scuffed up quite quickly on the deteriorating pitch and it was reversing a bit, so I just concentrated on putting it in the right area and it would do its own thing.

My club season for Old Georgians has been very good and I think I'm averaging close to 50. We've won the national league in the final, which was quite a good effort. We have a lot of young players at Old Georgians and if we win our next two games in the Vigne Cup I think we'll end up second, which is quite a good achievement from a club that was nearly going bust.

As far as my personal ambitions are concerned, I think I'm now having a last crack at the whip. I'm getting fitter now, I'm starting to lose weight again and play better cricket. I'm going to try to make the World Cup squad and hopefully the World Cup next year. I'll have to keep on scoring the runs I have been scoring to influence the selectors, though. The more runs I score, the less options they have to leave me out.