The biggest international cricketing extravaganza has, in the past, produced some brilliant marvels in all the three departments of the game, but in our never-ending penchant to see the flamboyance of the batsmen smashing the ball all around the park, we tend to forget the princely contributions of the entities who have, in today’s era of batting dominance, become ‘labourers’ of sorts.
Here, we rewind the clock to reflect upon the top 10 bowling spells in the World Cup history which were responsible for changing the complexion of the game.
1. Ashish Nehra produces a pace-bowling spectacle in Durban, 2003
Kingsmead, Durban and its pace-assisting wicket were where this story of Indian bowling brilliance was written. India did well to post a competitive 250 on board while batting first. Javagal Srinath was paired up with Ashish Nehra to defend that score. What transpired that night under the Durban floodlights is written in golden ink in the Indian pace bowling history. Nehra, bowling at a scintillating pace, used the conditions very well to move the ball in and out of the dancing English batsmen.
Though he picked up a six-wicket haul (6/23), what eventually mattered the most was his three-wicket burst to remove a well-set Michael Vaughan and Nasser Hussain along with Alec Stewart in space of just 16 deliveries to effectively seal the game for his team. India won the game by 82-runs while Nehra won the man-of-the-match trophy.
2. Dennis Lillee runs through the adamant Pakistanis, 1975
After a brilliant batting display to put up 278 runs on the board and then having the likes of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and Max Walker reduce the Pakistani team to a sorry looking 68 for 3 wickets, with each one the three pacers amongst the wickets, Australia surely fancied their chances of an easy win. But Pakistan weren’t going down without a fight. So Majid Khan, in the company of Asif Iqbal, began a mercurial counter-attack that propelled Pakistan to a comfortable 181. Just when the duo looked in complete control of the chase, Majid parted ways with Iqbal to pave way for a youthful Wasim Raza. The stage was set for a Lillee assault because it was now-or-never for Australia at that stage and the pacer didn’t disappoint. His fury went through the defenses of Iqbal to expose a helpless tail which found Lillee too hot to handle. Sarfaraz Nawaz, Wasim Bari, and Asif Masood completed the first five-for in the ODI history as Lillee’s 5 for 34 skittled Pakistan out for 205 runs.
3. Joel Garner steps up in the big final, 1979
A Viv Richards hundred and the English openers Mike Brearley and Geoff Boycott batting at a strike-rate of almost 50 while facing over hundred balls each in a steep chase of 287. These are the usual memories of the final of the second World Cup but amidst these highlights remain a hidden silent game-changing bowling spell by Joel ‘6 feet 8 inches’ Garner. Although England started slow, they had Graham Gooch, David Gower, and Ian Botham to give the required thrust towards the target. Garner, who was introduced as a second bowling change, went through the gate of an aggressive-looking Gooch (then batting at a strike-rate of 114) to shake-up the English chase.
His subsequent strikes to send back David Gower and Wayne Larkins further dented the English hopes, as they suddenly found themselves reeling at 6 for 186. Garner didn’t waste any time in applying the finishing touches with the wickets of Chris Old and wicket-keeper Bob Taylor to end up with the figures of 5 for 38 from 11 overs as West Indies cruised to their second title triumph.
4. Winston Davis’ shot to fame against the Australians, 1983
You’ve got to have some real talent when a captain of Clive Lloyd’s stature foresees you as the leader of the famed West Indian pace attack of the early 80s. That’s Winston Davis for you who shot to fame in the World Cup game against Australia when he registered the best bowling figures of that time. On a bowling-friendly Leeds deck, West Indies batted first and scratched their way to 252 for 9. It required a special effort to contain the Australians and Davis did the same. He came on to bowl as a first-change to the bowling duo of Michael Holding and Andy Roberts and what followed was a relentless unchanged spell of 10.3 overs to fold the Kangaroos at 151 all-out. Davis registered 7 for 51 — the best figures in those times which included the wickets of Kim Hughes and Alan Border. He was dutifully adjudged Man-of-the-Match for his game-changing spell.
5. Wasim Akram’s genius hands Pakistan their first title glory, 1992
Wasim Akram had a day of lifelong remembrance in the final of the 1992 World Cup. First, he unleashed a late fury with his bat (33 runs of just 18 balls) to take Pakistan to a respectable 249 for 6 and then returned with the ball in the 35th over of the chase to swing the match and the World Cup, in his team’s favour. After a disastrous start which saw England succumb to 69 for 4, Allan Lamb and Neil Fairbrother added 72 runs from just 14 overs to demoralise the Pakistanis who were harbouring hopes of a miraculous title victory. Well, miracles do happen and Akram showed it how. Akram produced two reverse swinging peaches to clean up Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis on successive deliveries to jolt the English chase which could never recover from the double strike and eventually got shot out on 227, handing a 22-run victory to Pakistan. Akram’s 33 with the bat and 3 for 49 from 10 overs with the ball won him the Man-of-the-Match award.
6. Shane Warne’s magic propels Australia into the final, 1996
The greatest exponent of the leg-spin makes it to this list with his World Cup 1996 semi-final chronicles. Australia were up against the West Indies in a match that oscillated till the third ball of the final over which ultimately put a firm five-run winning stamp on the Aussies. On a Chandigarh deck which supported the faster bowlers, Australia huffed and puffed their way to 207 for 8. In reply, West Indies were very well placed at 165 for 2, having the match firmly in their pockets when Shane Warne decided to gatecrash their party after Glenn McGrath removed a well-set Shivnarine Chanderpaul for a well-made 80.
Ottis Gibson, Jimmy Adams, and Ian Bishop were found wanting against an expertly woven spin-web by the Australian magician. Captain Richie Richardson waged a lone battle as his partners deserted him with remarkable consistency to hand Australia a nail-biting five-run victory. It is a no-brainer that Warne’s 4 for 36 from 9 overs got him the Man-of-the-Match award.
7. Shane Bond’s fury not enough to take the Kiwis over the line, 2003
How many times have you seen a performer from a losing side being adjudged as the best performer of the game? Well, the 2003 World Cup surely had one scintillating addition to such a list of unusual achievement. Australia’s top four batsmen, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, and Damien Martyn, were a force to reckon in the tournament but all of them were found helpless when an accurate Shane Bond, bowling at a searing pace, made the ‘famed’ Australian batting line-up crumble like a house of cards. Bond’s figures of 6 for 23 from his 10 overs were responsible for Australia getting restricted at 208 for 9. Unfortunately, Bond’s batting teammates failed to live up to the expectations as they messed up the chase to get all out for a shambolic 112 runs to send Bond’s fearsome bowling effort down the drain. Nevertheless, it remains one of the best bowling displays in World Cup history.
8. Gary Gilmour’s day out in Headingley, 1975
England hosted Australia in the first semi-final of the inaugural World Cup in Headingley but simply failed to anticipate the ‘late-swing’ carnage from a lesser known Australian named Gary Gilmour, who was playing his first game of the tournament on what, according to Wisden, was a ‘green and damp pitch’. Gilmour’s prodigious left-arm helped him extract movement both in the air and off the surface to send out five of the best batsmen in the first six names on the English batting card.
The names included the likes of Dennis Amiss (arguably the first great batsman in ODI arena) and Keith Fletcher and by the time Gilmour’s carnage ended, wicket-keeper Alan Knott’s wicket had provided him with the honour of bagging the first-ever six-wicket haul in ODIs. He eventually finished at 6 wickets for 14 runs from his 12 overs and also hit a run-a-ball 28 in the Australian chase to help his team through to the finals. It was surely a humongous achievement for a bowler in those days to overshadow fearsome pacers like Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.
9. Lasith Malinga’s ‘never-before’ not enough against the Proteas, 2007
Prior to the Super 8 game of the 2007 World Cup between Sri Lanka and South Africa, no bowler had ever taken four wickets on four successive balls in ODI cricket. A determined Lasith Malinga decided to set that record straight as he snared four back-to-back South African wickets to scare the hell out of the Proteas who were unintentionally living-up to their ‘chokers’ tag. All this mayhem, the four wickets of Shaun Pollock, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, and Makhaya Ntini, took place when South Africa needed just four runs to go past the Sri Lankan total of 209 runs. Finally, after a nervy 11-ball period, Robin Peterson’s blade gave away an edge, on the second ball of the penultimate over, which went flying towards the boundary to seal the victory for his team. Though his effort went down the drain, this spell from Malinga surely demands a place in history.
10. Wahab Riaz shows how to scare Aussies in their own backyard, 2015
Six overs he bowled on the trot, conceded just 24 runs and took two wickets of David Warner and the skipper Michael Clark. That’s Wahab Riaz in a very brittle Pakistani defense of just 213 runs in the World Cup 2015 quarter-final against Australia in Adelaide. It was a bowling display worth many more wickets. The sight of Shane Watson, renowned for his hooking and pulling, arching full stretch or ducking expediently under the line of the ball to save himself from the fury, surely demanded much more rewards. Riaz made brilliant use of his speed to consistently catch the Aussie batsmen off-guard, especially Watson, but others weren’t that effective which helped Australia cruise to a six-wicket victory after they had seen off the initial but memorable burst from Wahab who eventually finished with figures of 54 runs for 2 wickets from the game.