Legends Month: The best of Michael Bevan
As part of Legends Month on Cricket Network, look back on one of Michael Bevan's greatest performances
16 May 2018, 11:07 AM AEST
At the time Michael Bevan started on his path to becoming one of the best one-day batsmen of his generation, he was barely even considered one of the best one-day batsmen in his own country.
The mid-1990s was a time before a clear and defined split had emerged between the Test and one-day formats and the concept of a white-ball specialist, which Bevan would ultimately become, was not yet in vogue.
So while the young New South Welshman had averaged more than 65 against the white ball in his brief international appearances by the time a month-long one-day tri-series began in mid-December 1995, he was far from secure in the side.
"(Selectors) were picking one-day teams and Test teams at the same time," Bevan recalled on Fox Sports two years ago.
"And not long after the Pakistan tour (in 1994), I'd been dropped from both (formats) even though I'd done OK in the one-dayers.
"It wasn't until the 1995-6 series that I really emerged as a one-day player."
To say Bevan "emerged" that summer is an understatement; he exploded into the national consciousness, producing a performance so exhilarating it transcended the cricket world, and remains one of Australian sport's most memorable moments of the decade.
Which, when Australia had collapsed to 6-38 chasing 193 in their New Year's Day clash at the SCG, had loomed as likely as spotting a bright-eyed backpacker at Bondi earlier that morning.
But it was the hopelessness of the situation that brought Bevan and his team back into the match.
"I never really got nervous because there was nothing to lose," he recalled. "I always felt nervous when we got close to the runs and we had something to lose.
"I wouldn’t have started feeling nervous about the entire thing until probably five, six, seven overs out (from the finish)."
After West Indies spinner Roger Harper had spilled a simple return chance off Bevan when the left-hander was just 14, the 25-year-old formed an unlikely partnership with fast bowler Paul Reiffel, whose 48-ball knock of 34 added to his four wickets from earlier in the day.
The pair were on course to orchestrate an incredible win before Reiffel and then Shane Warne fell in quick succession, bringing No.11 Glenn McGrath – boasting a career batting average of just 3.57 – to the crease with six runs needed for victory and four balls remaining.
Any advantage Australia had by having Bevan on strike at the fall of Warne's wicket disappeared the next delivery when a diving stop from Shivnarine Chanderpaul at cover denied the left-hander a double, leaving McGrath on strike with five runs still to win.
But the lanky 25-year-old managed to inside edge a full delivery from Harper onto his pad, the ball rolling onto the off side slowly enough to allow a scampered single.
Four runs required, two balls remaining and, crucially, Bevan back on strike.
But he could do little to the penultimate delivery other than bunt it back to the bowler, a superb yorker from Harper – an off-spinner given the difficult task of bowling the final over – leaving four runs to win from the final delivery.
But Bevan, as he would do throughout a career that earned him the nickname 'The Pyjama Picasso', recalibrated.
Having advanced out of his crease to the fifth ball of the over, he backed away to the sixth and got under another attempted yorker from Harper and took full toll as the bowler slightly missed his length.
The left-hander connected with a firm swipe, propelling the ball so straight that Umpire Tony McQuillan, who showed impressive agility to duck as the ball sailed over his head, was the only person on the field who had any chance of stopping it on its course to the straight boundary at the Paddington End.
Bevan removed his helmet and held it and his bat aloft as he accepted the raucous applause from his home ground, and a hug from his stunned batting partner.
And the noise from the 37,000 fans barely abated as Bevan walked off the SCG, and started on the path to greatness.