February 14, 2011

I put a spell on you

Great World Cup bowling performances, from Pigeon, Big Bird, Waz, Warnie and others

Joel Garner
England made a slow but sure start to their chase of West Indies' 286 in the 1979 final at Lord's: openers Geoff Boycott and Mike Brearley put on 129, but rather slowly, meaning the later batsmen had to hit out. Garner, toothpick-thin and skyscraper-high, had been subdued in his first nine overs, which cost 34 - but he was to turn the match on its head in his final spell. Zeroing in on the base of the stumps, first he bowled Graham Gooch for 32. Then he bowled David Gower and Wayne Larkins for ducks with successive balls, rattled the stumps again to send back Chris Old, and had Bob Taylor caught behind, transforming his figures with five wickets for four runs in 11 balls. Colin Croft wrapped things up in the next over, and Garner had his winners' medal.

Gary Gilmour
A juicy green-tinged pitch for the semi-final at Headingley in 1975 saw Australia bring in left-arm swing bowler Gilmour for his first World Cup game. "Gus" proved almost unplayable, bending the ball around and finishing with 6 for 14 as England were blown away for 93. Only one of his victims needed any help from the fielders: Tony Greig was caught by a flying Rod Marsh, plucking the ball out of Ian Chappell's midriff at slip, but the rest were bowled or lbw. Australia slumped to 39 for 6 themselves, but were rescued by Gilmour, who thumped 28 not out to take his side into the first final (they lost at Lord's, although Gilmour took five more wickets).

Lasith Malinga
South Africa appeared to be strolling to victory at Providence in Guyana in 2007 when they reached 206 for 5 in reply to Sri Lanka's 209. Malinga, Sri Lanka's wild-haired round-armed fast bowler, was having an off day, and had figures of 0 for 48. But finally "Slinger" got his bearings. Shaun Pollock lost his leg stump to a slower one, then Andrew Hall was cleaned up by a toe-singeing yorker. After an over from Chaminda Vaas cost only a single, Malinga returned, with just three needed to win... and had Jacques Kallis caught behind. Next ball Makhaya Ntini was also yorked, and Malinga had become the first to take four wickets in four balls in any international match. Sri Lanka were suddenly on the verge of an amazing victory. Amid mounting tension the remaining four balls of Malinga's over produced only a single, then the parsimonious Vaas sent down a maiden to last man Charl Langeveldt. However, in Malinga's next over Robin Peterson outside-edged the winning four to spoil the fairytale.

Andy Bichel
Queenslander Bichel tore a page out of the Gary Gilmour book when Australia played England in Port Elizabeth in 2003. On a day when his team-mates returned combined figures of 1 for 181 on a slow pitch, Bichel seamed the ball around cannily to finish with 7 for 20. And, like Gilmour, he wasn't finished: Australia looked out of it at 135 for 8, but Bichel (34 not out) combined with the arch-finisher Michael Bevan to spirit their side home with two balls to spare.

Wasim Akram
The figures - 3 for 49 - don't look spectacular, but the fact that Wasim was the Man of the Match in the 1992 final in Melbourne gives a clue to a superb display of fast left-arm bowling. First he had Ian Botham, England's pinch-hitting opener, caught behind for a duck (Beefy swears to this day that he never touched it). But Wasim's big moment was yet to come. He returned with England seemingly well placed to overhaul Pakistan's 249. It was 141 for 4 when Wasim - harnessing the new-fangled phenomenon of reverse-swing - grabbed the important wicket of Allan Lamb for 31. Next ball the dangerous Chris Lewis also had his stumps rearranged, and Pakistan were on their way to a famous victory.

Chaminda Vaas
Woe betide any late arrivals for Sri Lanka's group game with Bangladesh in Pietermaritzburg in 2003: the match was as good as done by the end of the first over. Left-armer Vaas had woken up with a sore back but shook it off in time to take wickets with the first, second, third and fifth balls of the game. At the end of the first over Bangladesh were blinking at a scoreboard that showed them 5 for 4, with their No. 6 already at the crease. They made a modest recovery to 124, but Sri Lanka's openers knocked that off without being parted in a match that lasted only 52.2 overs in all.

Glenn McGrath
"Pigeon" currently holds the record for most wickets (71) in World Cup matches, and he also has the best bowling figures - 7 for 15 in 2003. But that was against lowly Namibia, and McGrath is probably prouder of the 5 for 14 that demolished West Indies at Old Trafford in 1999... or figures of 9-3-13-2 against Pakistan in the 99 final at Lord's... or his 3 for 52 in the 2003 final in Johannesburg, which included both the vital first wicket (Sachin Tendulkar in the first over) and the last one as Australia retained the Cup. Ricky Ponting wanted McGrath to round things off in the 2007 Bridgetown final too, but in the farcical finish to that match it was too gloomy for him to bowl, and the game finished in the dark with Sri Lanka, in a hopeless position, defending against the spinners.

Mike Hendrick
The Derbyshire fast bowler Hendrick features on countless World Cup highlights reels as the unfortunate bowler whose final delivery in the 1979 final is deposited into the Mound Stand by an on-the-move Viv Richards. But England might not even have been in that final were it not for a remarkable spell by Hendrick in the group game against Pakistan, who had bowled England out for 165 at Headingley. After Pakistan reached 27 without loss, Hendrick took four for three in just eight balls. With Ian Botham chipping in at the other end, Pakistan were suddenly 34 for 6. Hendrick finished his 12-over stint with 4 for 15. But there was more to come: Pakistan inched their way to 145 for 8 before Mike Brearley tried the gentle swing of Geoff Boycott. Bowling with his cap on back to front, Boycott had Wasim Bari caught behind - then, with Pakistan 15 short of victory and Imran Khan well set at the other end, he tempted Sikander Bakht into a slog, which was well caught by the leaping mid-off... Mike Hendrick.

Shane Warne
After operations on his bowling hand, which left him short of sensation in the fingers, and his shoulder, Shane Warne started the 1999 World Cup quietly and conservatively. But as South Africa - at 48 for 0 chasing 213 - threatened to take charge of the classic Edgbaston semi-final, Warne reasoned that he'd better forget his aches and pains and give the ball a real rip. First Herschelle Gibbs fell to a near-replica of the famous in-dipping big-turning legbreak that dumbfounded Mike Gatting in Warne's 1993 Ashes debut. Gary Kirsten was also bowled, Hansie Cronje fell for a duck, and later Warne returned to winkle out top-scorer Jacques Kallis. He finished with 4 for 29 as Australia squeaked into the final - where he took four more wickets in the heavy defeat of Pakistan at Lord's.

Aasif Karim
The former Kenya captain Aasif Karim was tempted out of retirement at 39 to play in the 2003 World Cup, and played a big part in his side's remarkable run to the semi-finals. A containing left-arm spinner, Karim saved his best for the best: when Kenya met the eventual champions in the Super Six match in Durban, he dismissed Ricky Ponting, Darren Lehmann and Brad Hogg as Australia slid to 117 for 5 in pursuit of 175. Andrew Symonds and Ian Harvey prevented another upset, but Karim finished with bowling figures to regale the grandchildren with: 8.2-6-7-3.

Aravinda de Silva
De Silva's century in the 1996 final in Lahore did much to secure Sri Lanka's first World Cup victory - but his bowling earlier in the match against Australia was also vital. Muttiah Muralitharan took only one wicket that day - but de Silva grabbed three as the total was restricted to a gettable 241. Bouncing in at a 45-degree angle and whirling down flattish offbreaks, de Silva first had top-scorer Mark Taylor caught sweeping, then turned one in to bowl Ricky Ponting when he was threatening to take control. Later de Silva bowled Ian Healy as well, to finish with 3 for 42. The target was within reach - and de Silva made sure his side reached it, with the most important of his 31 international centuries.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Cricinfo Guide to International Cricket 2011. And Ask Steven is now on Facebook