Craig Evans on the Board XI's one-day match v Natal B
Craig Evans is a Russian-roulette type of batsman. He seems to do nothing at all in nine innings out of ten, only on the tenth occasion to explode and win a match single-handedly. The one-day match against Natal B in Kwekwe was one such tenth occasion. Craig talks about it to John Ward.
JW: Craig, you were left out of the team for the three-day match and selected only for the one-dayer, which must have been rather infuriating for you, at Zimbabwe A level. Do you think this added to your determination?
CE: Yes, I think it has, John. I'm batting better now than I think I've ever batted in my life at the moment; I think maturity is now taking its course [JW: Just made it before senility takes over!] - yes! - I thought I would have been given the nod for the three-day game but anyway, as things went, I was very happy to be able to play in the one-day game.
JW: How has your league form gone so far this season?
CE: It's actually one of the best seasons I've had so far; I'm averaging about 130 in league at the moment and I hope the form continues, in South Africa [on the Board XI tour] as well. My top scores apart from the 85 not out against Natal have been three sixties, two of them not out, and a 50 not out.
JW: Did you play winter cricket?
CE: We played winter cricket but it was a very stop-start season for us because of all the trouble that was going on on the farms. I got two hundreds in the Districts season, but as I said it wasn't a great season: there was no team spirit in any if the teams we played; everyone wanted to rush back and protect their farms so I hope next season we have a better time.
JW: When did you actually arrive in Kwekwe?
CE: I arrived on Saturday afternoon to watch the end of the three-day game, which of course was won by us. I thought the spinners bowled extremely well, Gav Rennie set some good fields, and I knew looking at the wicket they played on for the three-day game that it was going to be a turner and probably not a seaming wicket.
JW: Had you played against any of the Natal players before?
CE: I hadn't played against any of those Natal players before; it's all a new side to me so it was a challenge to me going out to face bowlers I hadn't faced before.
JW: Can you talk your way through the course of the match? First of all there was that delay at the start due to overnight rain.
CE: Yes, that made us a bit of edge. Anyway, we lost the toss on a wicket we wanted to bat on, but as you could see from the first ten overs we bowled at them, our seamers bowled a good line and length but it they just weren't conducive to any kind of line. So we opted for a change of pace, and Gary Brent and myself came on and we brought the run rate right down. They ended up getting 195 in 40, but at the start of the game they looked like getting 250 or 260. So we were very happy with that.
JW: Did any of the Natal batsmen impress you?
CE: Their number three batter impressed me; that tall guy, I don't know what his name is . . . a very strong player [Grant Rowley]. He hit it very cleanly and he hit straight through the line; I think he'll be a good player one day.
JW: When we batted, what was the game plan originally?
CE: The game play was that if we batted 40 overs, we were going to win the game. If we just took our singles - which the Natal guys didn't do - we thought if we just took as many singles as we could without taking a risk, we would win the game and bat 40 overs.
JW: But things weren't working out too well when you went in to bat.
CE: No, we lost Trevor Gripper and Gavin Rennie quite early doors, and Craig Wishart and Dion Ebrahim dug themselves in, which gave us a little bit of a platform, got the shine off the ball a bit, and set a platform for the lower-order batsmen to come in and play shots and take singles.
JW: So how did your innings begin?
CE: Tentatively at the start, until I got off the mark with a short ball from one of their seamers and hit it for four. My confidence grew, and I told myself I had to play straight on that wicket and I had to play late because the wicket was a little slow, and I ended up hitting the ball nicely from start to finish.
JW: Who were the Natal bowlers you had to take the greatest care with?
CE: They had a young left-arm spinner who I thought was a good bowler - very young and inexperienced, but on that wicket he was quite dangerous with the ball turning and bouncing so much, so we had to take a bit of care with him. But their two opening bowlers - the young black guy was quite skiddy, quite quick, and we had to watch the ball quite carefully, and the other opening bowler was a good bowler, who reversed it in the air, and our guys coming in number six and number seven found it difficult to face.
JW: Was there any particular point where you really felt your eye was in and you were able to cut loose?
CE: I felt once I'd got to thirty-odd, I felt that I was in and I felt that I could reverse the pressure. From 40 or 50 for three we needed five and a half runs and over and I got it down after 30 overs to three an over. So I thought I would reverse the pressure and take a few risks, and it paid off.
JW: Which of your partners gave you the best support?
CE: Greg Lamb played well around me, and so did Dion Ebrahim; they gave me good support and we just saw it through to the end.
JW: What were your best shots that you remember?
CE: My best shot was the one to finish the game! I hit it for six over mid-on, but I think on that wicket the shots that I dabbed for one and the sweep shots I played against the spin were just what I thought the whole season showed I was in quite good nick, and I hope it carries on that way.
JW: Any bad moments or narrow escapes?
CE: Early on I tried to cut the left-arm spinner and got a top edge, and it dropped over backward point, but when I saw it land it wasn't really in reach.
JW: How did the Natal players handle your innings in the field?
CE: I thought their captain didn't bowl the right bowlers at the right time. I thought they could have changed their bowlers a bit more often. They bowled their two spinners for too long a spell; they bowled their left-arm spinner for ten overs, so once we had faced him for two or three overs we knew what he was going to bowl. He didn't bowl any arm balls at all, just left-arm spin, so we were able to get into him and score at six or seven an over.
JW: Do you feel they were a sporting side on the field?
CE: Yes, they were very sporting to me; they didn't have much to say to me but just got on and played the game.
JW: Celebrations after the match?
CE: We had a long drive back, John, and it was raining, so we thought we would take it nice and easy, the safest way; I had work the next morning.
JW: Anything else worth saying about the match?
CE: It's a good start for us again this season. Last season we had a good one-day series right throughout the season and I think we finished top of the one-day log, and second in the three-day log, and we lost the [one-day] final last year, so I hope our guys learned from that and we can win a few games and maybe lift the trophy this year.
JW: Any of our own players impress you particularly?
CE: Greg Lamb has impressed me; I think he's going to be a good player in the next couple of years. Dion Ebrahim is a gutsy performer, but I think by and large we need to put our youngsters through a lot more experience, let them go on a lot more B tours. Then they'll come through the ranks and start playing national cricket. A lot of experience will bring results.