ODI bowling winner

The irresistible Umar Gul

After losing the Tests and being hit by the spot-fixing scandal, Pakistan's summer of 2010 was turning out to be their bleakest. Till a spell of bowling brought a flicker of light

Andrew Miller

February 14, 2011

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Best ODI Bowling Performance

Umar Gul
v England, third ODI, The Oval

When the force is with Umar Gul, there are few more irresistible bowlers in world cricket. At The Oval in September 2010, in the aftermath of the spot-fixing scandal that had led to the suspensions of his fellow seamers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, and with Pakistan 2-0 down in a five-match one-day series and facing another thumping defeat beneath the floodlights, he transformed a meandering contest with an extraordinary demolition of England's batting line-up.

Gul had not been at his best in 2010. He missed the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean - a grievous blow to the defending champions, for whom he had claimed 13 wickets at 12.15 in their 2009 triumph - and while he hit some form in the Test series against England, a hamstring problem had sidelined him for the final two matches. But with his team on their knees and desperate for an injection of inspiration, he found his mojo at the most opportune moment imaginable.

Everything seemed to be going swimmingly for England. They were chasing an insubstantial 242, and had overcome an early jitter to reach 201 for 5 with 12 full overs remaining. Eoin Morgan was at the crease, the asking rate was barely three an over, and the tricky twilight hour had already been negotiated, so the Oval floodlights were now in full beam. The series was in the bag, but Gul was about to snatch the satchel and sprint off down the street with it.

The jury says...

  • "One of Gul's best spells for a long time. He was sharp, got the ball to reverse a little but was mostly dead straight, full and very quick - England didn't know how to deal with it." Osman Samiuddin
  • "The performance had everything: control, speed, yorkers and reverse swing. He ever so slightly varied his length and an unbelievable death-overs burst floored England when they were cruising." Ramiz Raja
  • "When the old ball starts to swing, who you gonna call? Umar Gul. On this occasion he was at his best to destroy England with a spell of 4 for 6 that saw Pakistan home to victory." Ian Chappell

The collapse began innocuously enough. With two wickets to his name already, Gul returned to the attack for his eighth over, and struck with his first ball as Morgan carelessly wafted a leg-stump delivery straight to deep square leg. As England's champion departed for 61, Gul needed no further invitation to run amok. Two runless deliveries later, Tim Bresnan had no answer to a fearsome delivery that pitched and fizzed through a bamboozled gate, and suddenly the game was alive.

When Gul gets it going, it's as if the ball is on a string. It zips out of his fingers like an 85mph yo-yo, and snaps off the surface with an apparent disregard for physics. Stuart Broad had no answer for such wiles, and his stumps were uprooted by a late swerving Yorker. With the very last ball of Gul's ten-over allocation, England's final hope was extinguished as Graeme Swann was suckered by a rare half-volley that he felt compelled to poke straight to cover.

From 201 for 5 to 211 for 9, and ultimately 218 all out, England's collapse was as sudden and unstoppable as anything they produced back in the days of Wasim and Waqar, and the latter was a very contented coach when he described Gul's performance as the spell that his team had needed. Once again they had found a ray of light at the precise moment when their fortunes had seemed to be at their lowest. Even at 2-1 up, it would take every ounce of England's mental strength to fight their way back into the series, and ultimately to prevail.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
About the ESPNcricinfo Awards

The ESPNcricinfo Awards recognise the best individual batting and bowling performances in cricket over the calendar year and across the three international formats. The awards are voted on by an independent jury of former cricketers, commentators, and ESPNcricinfo's senior editors. Shortlists are drawn up by the site and made public at the start of every year, and the jury votes on the shortlisted performances to determine the final winners. Previous winners have included Virender Sehwag (twice), Adam Gilchrist, Shahid Afridi and Kumar Sangakkara.

Related Links
Awards : ODI bowling nominees
Players/Officials: Umar Gul
Teams: Pakistan
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