April 8, 2000

Bevan day in Bangabandhu National Stadium

Bangabandhu National Stadium: Today, in the morning when I went to the ground to witness this clash between the Asian all stars and the best of the rest, I had no idea what I was in for. Most of the spectators had lined up outside the stadium since dawn, although they knew the gates would not open till noon. The stadium got packed even two hours before the match started. To say that the ground was packed would be an understatement. The official capacity of the Bangabandhu National Stadium is 36000 and almost twice that number were there to watch this one. It was an all Asia crowd despite the fact that no Bangladeshis were picked to play in the Asia XI. Even the cheerleaders were biased constantly chattering "We want Asia on the top"!

After Wasim Akram won the toss and elected to bat first, the crowd got just what they wanted. In spite of the early departure of Sanath Jayasuriya for 12 caught by Bevan off Hayward, Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly really went after the Rest of the World bowling. Tendulkar's 88 of 77 was easily the best of the Asian innings, while Ganguly's 67 was a very vital contribution in a partnership worth 124. They severely punished the bowling with powerful stroke play, before both of them were out trying hit Tufnell over the top only to find Franklyn Rose. The Asia team were still going at a more than healthy rate of 6.77 an over, but then Mark Waugh introduced the two part time spinners in his artillery, himself and Michael Bevan. Together, they pulled the scoring rate down, Waugh grabbing two wickets in the process. Bevan was the only one to finish his ten over quota giving away 61 taking a wicket. Moin Khan's contribution worth 34 off 31 in the end revitalized the Asia innings, with some help from Anil Kumble's 14 not out, taking them to 320/9 in their fifty overs allotment. This was exactly what this Asia-fanatic crowd were longing for, they cheered every boundary, every three, every two and even every single, and simply went bezerk when a six was hit.

To everyone's surprise Mark Waugh opened the batting with Neil Johnson instead of Adam Gilchrist which would have been probably the more conventional choice. Wasim Akram started it off, the ball bouncing awkwardly and hitting Johnson, who was shocked to discover that it was a plastic ball. It was one of the Asian captain's pranks using a ball thrown in from the crowd, all in the spirit of the game.

Johnson struggled and was soon gone however Mark Waugh was as elegant as ever, once hitting Wasim Akram for three consecutive boundaries, at which moment the crowd went dead silent. Waugh made 28 off the same number of balls, before he went for another firm hit, striking the ball back and Chaminda Vaas taking an unbelievable return catch.

Bevan joined Kallis at 46/2 and together they put on 51 chasing what seemed a very unreachable target. With Kumble, trapping Kallis lbw for 31, Cairns came to the crease and stuck around for a while but was gone for just 8 without displaying any of his brutal strokes, caught by Murali off his own bowling. Klusener supported Bevan for a while, who on the other end continued to stealthily accumulate runs, bringing up his half century in 45 balls. Zulu went edging a ball from Muralitharan to Jayasuriya at slips, and finally one of Australia's best one day batsman Adam Gilchrist came to the crease being pushed down the order seven places. Gilchrist unfamiliar with playing in the middle overs, was not doing so well and was finally bowled by Abdur Razzak for 1 off 7.

Franklyn Rose did not do so well compared to his performance in the matches against Zimbabwe, being lbw to Razzak for seven runs. The score was now on 196/7, 125 runs needed in 13 overs at 9.54 runs an over, and the crowd had already started its premature celebrating with the occasional fireworks one of which landed less that a yard in front of me. No one had expected what would happen from then on, every one had forgotten that one man was still out there determined to fight for what seemed to be a hopeless cause. That man was Michael Bevan and indeed he did make a match of this one-sided affair. We saw a different side of Michael Bevan, from an accumulator he transformed into a master blaster, hitting each bowler to and over the fence. He reached three figures off only 88 balls with seven fours and three sixes.

Andy Caddick, played a good supporting role, playing and missing often but managing to give Bevan back the strike to plunder probably the best bowling attack to have played in one team. In the last two overs, 39 runs were required, and after striking the last ball of the 49th over for four, Bevan had to give up the strike to Caddick.

Caddick stole a bye off the first ball of the final over leaving Bevan who was now on 168, to score 19 runs in just five deliveries. He whacked three boundaries off the next three deliveries from poor Abdur Razzaq. The crowd were in a state of shock, and concerned faces were reflected both in and out of the field. The next ball Bevan drove, coming back for the second, a direct throw from Robin Singh ran Caddick out, who did not ground his bat while running in. A six was now Rest of the World's only hope of victory and Michael Bevan tried his best, lofting the ball over long off, falling just a yard short of the ropes. It was a boundary, but not good enough for what could have been the greatest one day victory of all time.

Had Caddick not been run out, the match would have been drawn and Bevan's fantastic effort would have been rewarded. If not Rest of the World, at least Michael Bevan deserved victory, but instead what he got was defeat by just one run. At the presentation ceremony, Muralitharan picked up the best fielder award, whose brilliance must have saved his team at least eight to ten runs. Michael Bevan was the obvious choice for the best batsman award while Hayward got the best bowler award for grabbing three wickets in the Asia innings. One of the controversies of the day was about the difference between the most valuable player and man of the match award but all of this did not matter since Bevan was awarded both of them. As I looked at him, I can tell you this I have never seen a sadder man accepting so many awards.

Mark Waugh, said his team this very well and was full of praise for Bevan. Wasim Akram, accepted the trophy with one of the biggest smiles ever on his face. I came back home, after an entire day under the scorching sun, with a painful back and a sore throat, but it was all worth it seeing this man's brave innings. He fought for what seemed to be a lost cause and almost took them to the brink of victory. His performance will never be forgotten by any one who was at the ground or even those who saw it on television. If it were within my power, I would have named April 8th, Michael Bevan Day in Dhaka.