Top Performances

Shoaib shatters the Kiwis

Jamie Alter
The Rawalpindi Express shows fast bowling is supposed to be just that - fast

Shoaib Akhtar: unstoppable © AFP

Shoaib Akhtar
3 for 55 v New Zealand, semi-final, 1999

Old Trafford was witness to a lop-sided semi-final in 1999, thanks mainly to an all-out, devil-may-care, floppy-haired speedster called Shoaib Akhtar. Having just shot to prominence with a fiery spell in a pre-World Cup series in India, Shoaib chose a venue more Karachi than Manchester - it was the hottest day of the tournament, the surface hard and dry, and a 20,000-strong sea of green and white blared instruments - to stamp his claim as the fastest and most exciting bowler in the game.

Shoaib was at his blistering best, hitting the stumps three times and consistently topping 90mph. Best of all, he reminded everyone that fast bowling was supposed to be just that - fast.

Shoaib bowled three spells, 4-3-3, and cleaned up a batsman in each. With Shoaib's 15th ball, Nathan Astle, reduced to fishing and hopping for the first of his 17 deliveries, had his leg stump flattened by an express delivery that burst through his airborne defence. You knew more was coming.

As Roger Twose and Stephen Fleming trudged along, a score of 250 looked remotely possible. Wasim Akram would have none of it, however, and brought Shoaib back to a tumultuous roar. Twose picked up a pair of twos, then was beaten twice outside off stump. Fleming drove Shoaib off the back foot with panache, and then slashed him to third man. Shoaib shook his head, returned to his run-up, and served up the ball of the match, if not the entire tournament. It was a yorker, 92mph and moving, and Fleming jammed his bat down on it about an hour too late. Leg stump went packing, the crowd erupted, the bowler celebrated.

One final spell remained, and sure enough, Shoaib came back on in the 46th over, around the stumps, and took out a clueless Chris Harris' leg stump with a devilishly disguised slower one. With electrifying speed, Shoaib restricted New Zealand to a modest 241 for 7. He didn't need any fielders on the day - wicked inswinging yorkers were his poison. It didn't matter a damn that he was the most expensive bowler for his side; he was out there to take and break wickets.