World Cup 2015 Review March 29, 2015

The best bowling spells of the World Cup - Wahab, Southee, Starc

ESPNcricinfo presents the best bowling spells of the World Cup

Wahab Riaz v Australia, Adelaide

In a World Cup that favoured batsmen, this was the most memorable passage of play. Having been goaded to anger during his innings, Wahab beat David Warner for pace, then put a short leg in and summoned a terrifying spell of short bowling that first ensnared Michael Clarke, then accosted Shane Watson over four overs. As he fired in bouncers at close to 150kph, Watson entered into a series of involuntary full-body spasms, back and limbs arching as he evaded, then attempted to play the barrage.

Wahab, who was seeking vengeance for one of Watson's sledges earlier in the day, was in the batsman's face after almost every ball, hurling smouldering glares, clapping the batsman sarcastically, once even mimicking Watson's posture after a particularly bloodcurdling evasion. In the stands, spectators were electrified to the bone, as stirred by Wahab's fury as engrossed by Watson's plight. In the end, Watson would be dropped off Wahab's bowling and the whole thing would fizzle out, but not before Wahab produced a half-hour that deserves to be relived and retold over and over.

Tim Southee v England, Wellington

If Wahab v Watson epitomised cricket combat, Southee's searing swing against England was as complete a demolition of an entire opposition batting order as has been seen in recent years. He cleaned Ian Bell up first with a searing outswinger - angling in but moving away in the air to beat the shot and clip off stump. Moeen Ali struck him for three fours on the trot later that over, but in the next one, Southee pushed him back with a bouncer then nailed him with a yorker.

By the time he returned to the crease in the 27th over, he was able to garner even more dramatic outswing. He splayed James Taylor's stumps with a banana ball, had Jos Buttler caught behind then hit the stumps again to send Chris Woakes packing. England were losing wickets so quickly Southee seemed to have scrambled the tail's brains. Stuart Broad was bowled running away from the ball and to complete the best figures for a New Zealand bowler in a World Cup, Steven Finn nicked one more outswinger behind.

Wahab Riaz provided the most dramatic passage of play during the World Cup © Getty Images

Trent Boult v Australia, Auckland

Boult's opening spell was nothing special. He was tight enough against a rampaging Warner, but it was only after Daniel Vettori had made key incisions that Boult ripped open Australia's middle order and left the opposition for dead. He moved balls off the seam to have Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh chopping on in the 18th over, then had Michael Clarke caught at short cover next over. With Eden Park's most rivalrous visitors at 104 for 7 after 20 overs, a revved-up crowd began to chant: "You're worse than England." Two lower order scalps in the next over gave Boult his five-for. He had Mitchell Johnson driving uppishly to cover again, before uprooting Mitchell Starc's middle stump to send the stadium into raptures.

Mitchell Starc v New Zealand, Eden Park

In the second scintillating spell of this Auckland humdinger, Starc's yorkers were so lethal, what had seemed to be a New Zealand cakewalk became a mighty close shave, and spurred Michael Clarke to label his bowler "a genius". Like Boult, Starc had an inauspicious start, leaking 14 runs in his first over. Pretty soon he went searching fast and full, and struck gold. Martin Guptill was his first victim, caught at mid off, before two overs later, he sent two full inswingers into the stumps of Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott, on successive deliveries.

But even with that early shudder, New Zealand recovered to coast toward victory until Starc came back to the bowling crease and sent shivers through Eden Park. He caught Luke Ronchi's glove with a violent bouncer in the 21st over, then when New Zealand had only six runs to win and three wickets in hand, got his second two-in-two of the match. Adam Milne backed away and saw his bails go flying. Tim Southee barely had time to register the leg-stump yorker that rattled his woodwork. Had Trent Boult erred in the final two balls of that over, Australia might have pulled off a heist, but the batsman survived long enough to get Kane Willliamson back on strike. Williamson hit the winning runs before Starc got the ball again.

Imran Tahir v Sri Lanka, SCG

For all Sri Lanka's vast experience against spin, for all their dominance of Tahir in the Test series last year, it would be a slow-bowler that undid them in their favourite Antipodean venue. Kyle Abbott and Dale Steyn struck the opening blows, but Tahir came on in the middle overs and twisted the knife. Lahiru Thirimanne was first to go in Tahir's third over, spooning a return catch after being defeated in the flight. Then came the big fish. So often Sri Lanka's big-match performer, Mahela Jayawardene was first startled by Tahir, then snared by him. The shortish delivery seemed to skid and rush onto the batsman, who struck the ball softly in the air to short midwicket. The game was effectively broken open, with Sri Lanka plodding at 81 for 4. Tahir had Thisara Perera caught in the slips later on, then Lasith Malinga drilled him straight to cover to close the innings. All these wickets were of course celebrated with manic energy and enthusiasm.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando