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World Cup: Wahab Riaz and the bowling spell that had Australia jumping for cover

9-0-54-2, economy rate of 6.00.

At first glance it doesn't quite seem like a spell that anyone, let alone the bowler himself would like to remember. But all those sitting at the Adelaide Oval would willingly testify that Wahab Riaz's spell was one of the most fearsome seen in this World Cup.

Wahab came into the attack with Pakistan needing wickets. Australia had advanced to 44-1 after 8 overs and they just needed 214 to win. Warner was looking good, so was Steve Smith.

 World Cup: Wahab Riaz and the bowling spell that had Australia jumping for cover

Wahab Riaz bowled brilliantly for Pakistan. AFP

It was the kind of situation which gives you the license to go in for the kill or crash out of the race trying. Either way, holding back wasn't going to help Pakistan. With that bit of doubt out of the way, Wahab charges in and off his third legal delivery gets Warner with a short, wide delivery.

The left-hander was trying to help it along to the boundary, but hits it straight to Rahat at third man. It was Wahab's 15th wicket of the tournament. But the real show was just starting -- this was Wahab just warming up.

Australian skipper Michael Clarke was in next and Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq senses something is building up. After one delivery, he moves a catcher in to short leg.


An over from Rahat follows, but that almost feels like an unwanted break.

Next, Wahab is back and charging in. One of the commentators says you can see fire in his eyes. As far as figures of speech go, it was apt.

Three short deliveries follow. Three short deliveries, three singles. Then comes the wicket.

It was short again. It was short, and it was quick, and Clarke pops it over to forward short leg. It was good captaincy and brilliant bowling. This was the Pakistan we had all come to love; the Pakistan that could win matches with a mood swing.

And suddenly they were feeling good. More importantly, Wahab was feeling good.

Shane Watson walks in. On television they took the opportunity of showing us Watson's 'strong zone' -- there were quick clips of him playing the pull and the hook shot.

So what does Wahab do? He charges in and bowls another short ball. Watson ducks out but the left-armer took the opportunity to pass on a few friendly greetings.

When Wahab was batting, Mitchel Starc had his share of fun. This was the Pakistan paceman getting back at them.

The second ball is length, but it is quick -- 150 clicks. Watson calmly leaves it. But Wahab seems to stare at him for a few seconds before clapping, egging his fielders. To anyone who was watching, it sure seemed like he was taunting him.


Again, the long wait. Rahat in from the other end seemed liked a boring chapter that is suddenly interjected in the middle of a page-turner.

Wahab is back. The entire ground seemed to focus again, the breathing's a little ragged though. He steams in -- Smith calmly takes a single off the first ball. He'd rather not be on strike.

Watson readies to face Wahab again. Everyone knows what is coming his way and they weren't disappointed. It was short and fast. Watson waits till the last moment before avoiding the in. He wasn't comfortable. No run.

The third ball is no different. Fast and uncomfortable. It goes down the leg-side but umpire Dharmasena doesn't call it a wide.

Then another ball -- 150 clicks again. It wasn't short -- just back of a length. Watson defends again. No run.

It all seemed like a set-up... a good con. Everyone knew it was coming but no one knew when exactly. The sixth delivery was short, fast and it seems to skid on to Watson. Watson somehow manages to drop his hands out of way and survives. The question though is for how long he can hold out.


Another break from the madness. Shahid Afridi is brought in from the other end. He runs through his over, gives away 5 runs and then there's a drinks break.

Wahab's spell by now has charged up the entire Pakistan team. Earlier in the tournament, after the loss against Pakistan, the South Africa skipper had said that he hadn't felt 'electric vibes while the team was warming up.' If he'd walked into the middle of the Pakistan huddle at that point, he would have experienced a thunderstorm.

After the break, Wahab resumes. Smith -- who seemed to be playing him with remarkable calm -- plays out the first three balls. But Watson doesn't get any respite.

The next ball was short -- again. Watson slugs it out -- again. And survives.

The fifth ball is short, it loops towards short-leg but drops short. Watson was like a cat on a hot tin roof.

The sixth ball is short, Watson shapes for the hook. But only connects with the the shoulder of the bat. He wasn't in control but it drops short of third man.

The thing with this short ball attack is that Wahab also has a brilliant yorker. Was he setting Watson up for that?


Afridi again. And time for all of us to catch our breath. Then comes the moment that almost anyone watching the game could have predicted.

Wahab's fifth over begins. Another short ball, Watson goes for the hook but he was never in control. It flies high and straight to Rahat at fine leg. It is, in cricketing parlance, a dolly. He gets there, gets his hands up and then just doesn't hold on to it. The score at this point was 83-3.

Wahab screams out his frustration. But this seems to knock him back. When you have worked so hard, the least you can expect is to be backed up by your fielders. Rahat failed that test.

He charges in again and bowls quick, but the intensity seemed to have dropped.


Misbah takes the risk. He gives Wahab a sixth over -- it was one last throw of the dice.

He starts off with a 147 kmph lifter. But Smith gets in line and gets a single towards square leg.

A few more short balls follow. The theatre of the first five overs has however, given way to frustration. The bouncers were still well directed, but they just seem to lack in intensity a little now.


It was a spell that on any other day might have won Pakistan the match. But today, it was only good enough to finish second best. Take away nothing from Wahab -- instead just wonder why a bowler like him has played only 54 ODIs for Pakistan despite making his ODI debut in 2008.

He came back, bowled another three-over spell and had Glenn Maxwell playing shots that he may not have planned to. The fielders (Sohail Khan) once again disappointed and dropped Maxwell on 5.

His last three overs went for 30 runs, but it takes nothing away from the manner in which he lit up a match that seemed like a no-contest. Australia won the match by 6 wickets, but that almost seemed like an after-thought.

At the end of the match, Wahab said: "I knew that nowadays Shane Watson isn't that good on the short ball so I had to test him out and attack him. I've shaken Shane Watson's hand after the game. What happens on the field stays on the field and it's just part of the game"

Clarke too recognised Wahab's effort. And it's a pity that the scorecard won't.

"Wahab came out and really put us under pressure, one of the fastest spells I've seen in a long time. Watson toughed it out. If they catch Watto at fine leg it could have been a lot tighter, credit to sticking in there. Wahab pushed us really hard," Clarke said

But Misbah perhaps put it best in the post-match conference when he said: "I have never seen a bowler bowling like that."

Cricket they often say is a game of moments. And this here was one of the moments, we'd all do well to remember. This is where Wahab shone brighter than them all.

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Updated Date: Mar 21, 2015 09:09:33 IST