Wahab Riaz’s feiry spell of yesterday wasn’t the only time a Pakistan fast bowler sent rippers down a pitch in Australia.
There aren’t too many sights in world cricket more spectacular than that of a tear-away Pakistani pacer delivering thunderbolts, travelling at ninety miles per hour, at a visibly flabbergasted batsman. Among the enduring memories of 90’s for any cricket aficionado will be those of Waqar Younis unleashing those toe-crushing yorkers and Wasim Akram bursting through formidable batting line-ups . The flamboyant Shoaib Akhtar, though infuriatingly inconsistent, could ratchet up unheard of speed levels.
While Pakistan’s batting has plummeted to despairing depths, the pace bowling department continues to overflow with talent. Despite a seeming lack of any system or process to produce such quality pace bowlers, it’s perplexing how this talent supply remains unabated. And to think of it, two of Pakistan’s supremely talented pacers, Mohammed Amir and Mohammed Asif, are not even in currently in contention for selection.
The featherbed pitches in subcontinent are veritable graveyard for bowlers though the Pakistan quickies challenged them by innovating the technique of reverse swing. But it is in the Australian pitches that the Pakistan bowlers have produced some of the most breathtaking spells of bowling one will ever see .
Here is a compilation of 4 great spells by Pakistani pace bowlers in Australia:
Wasim Akram, 1992 World Cup Final, Melbourne
Unheralded Pakistan side, under the inspirational leadership of Imran Khan, surged in to the final of after looking ragged during the early part of the tournament. It took on a seasoned England team.
A steady partnership between Neil Fairbrother and Allan Lamb was almost threatening to take away the match from Pakistan and Imran turned to his trump card Wasim Akram in a last ditch gamble.
What happened next is captured so evocatively by Tim de Lisle, the former editor of Widen,
“Wasim has to find something special. It helps that his speciality is reverse swing at high pace. He ambles in to Lamb, round the wicket, and fires one in towards his pads. It shapes in, then darts away, beating Lamb’s baffled prod and taking out the off stump.
Chris Lewis comes in at No.7. Wasim goes wider on the crease and greets him with what appears to be an off-side wide, but it curls back wickedly late and takes out the off stump again. Wasim went on to play one-day international cricket for longer than any other bowler – 18 years, 356 games, 502 wickets – but he never bettered those two balls.”
Mohammed Zahid, 1996-97, Carlton & United TriSeries, Brisbane
Brian Lara was at the apogee of his cricketing career. He was undoubtedly the greatest batsman playing the game at that time. Now imagine an obscure rookie pace bowler making Lara look like a novice. Lara would later go on to describe Mohammed Zahid as the “ the fastest bowler in the world”. Those 2 overs of ferocious fast bowling by Zahid where he set up the dismissal of Lara were purely breathtaking. Pakistan in fact went on to the triumph in the 1996-97 tri-series in Australia.
Mohammed Zahid’s rise was as meteoric as his disappearance. He played a couple of matches in the subcontinental blunders, was persisted with despite a serious injury and was then dropped. He made a brief comeback later but he was clearly not the bowler who burst on to the scene in 1996.
Shoaib Akhtar 3rd ODI, 2002, vs Australia, Brisbane
Shoaib Akhar’s spell that night devastated the Australian batting side. His pace was too hot to handle. A ripper that was delivered at 151 Kmph cleaned up Ricky Ponting. It swung in after pitching, Ponting played for the line, and left a gap big enough between bat and pad for a truck to pass through. Bowled.
Next Darren Lehman had to pay the price for walking too far across his stumps. Damien Martyn fell next. It was sheer pace. By the time Martyn decided what to do with the ball, Saeed Anwar had caught it at third man.
Bevan and Gillespie were other two to fall and complete a five-for.
Wahab Riaz, 2015 World Cup Quarter Final, vs Australia, Adelaide
This spell of magnificent fast bowling came in a losing cause. But, the fact that it is still being talked about, tells you something about what Riaz produced on the field yesterday. In one of his overs, Wahab Riaz tested the character of Shane Watson. To his credit Watson, too, did not back down. But between the time Riaz released the ball, and it reached Watson, it would have asked the latter a question to which he had no answer. All Watson could was to defer to it and stay alive for the next delivery.
The magnificence of the spell was of course heralded by the greats of the game.
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