4 for 71 v India, Asian Test Championship, Kolkata, 1999
Two balls that silenced 100,000 spectators. Indian fans weren't too familiar with Shoaib Akhtar but he introduced himself in a manner that left a packed Eden Gardens shell-shocked in a minute. He broke through Rahul Dravid's defences with a fiery inswinging yorker that uprooted leg stump but what followed was unfathomable to the crowd then. India's best batsman strolled to the crease to wild cheers and walked back to the pavilion to stunned silence. Facing Shoaib for the first time, Sachin Tendulkar was at the receiving end of another inswinging yorker, which he failed to keep out and which sent the middle stump cartwheeling towards the wicketkeeper. Shoaib had well and truly arrived. He bagged eight wickets in a match-winning performance.
3 for 55 v New Zealand, World Cup semi-final, Manchester, 1999
Shoaib lit up the World Cup semi-final in Manchester in front of a partisan crowd to give his favourite opposition their first taste of what would be a regular diet from him. He hit 90 mph consistently and, though he went for a few, he aimed correctly and just at the right time to prevent New Zealand from posting a challenging score in what turned out to be a one-sided knockout. Shoaib bowled three spells, and dislodged a batsman in each. Nathan Astle was his first victim. Stephen Fleming had just slashed him to third man when Shoaib returned from round the wicket to fire in a 92mph yorker that cleaned up leg stump. And, in his final spell, pace gave way to subtlety as Chris Harris was undone by a superbly disguised slower ball. New Zealand were kept to 241 for 7, and Pakistan chased that down with no difficulty.
6 for 11 v New Zealand, 1st Test, Lahore, 2002
New Zealand were steamrolled with both bat and ball in Lahore and Shoaib joined in the hammering. New Zealand were up against it after Pakistan had piled up 643 in the first innings, and Shoaib's spell shut them completely out of contention. His six victims were all either bowled or lbw as his fiery pace and toe-crushing lengths simply proved too hot to handle. In a spell of fifty deliveries, Shoaib bagged 6 for 11 and skittled out New Zealand for 73, towards a massive defeat.
5 for 21 v Australia, 1st Test, Colombo, 2002
Australia's pre-eminence had rarely been challenged in the late nineties and the early noughties, but one Shoaib spell threatened to cause a major upset against a young Pakistan team. Pakistan were looking to limit the damage after conceding a lead of 188 in the first innings but Shoaib sprung the Colombo Test back to life in a spell that made a nonsense of an unfavourable pitch with searing pace. Called on to bowl for a second spell after Australia had been well-placed at 71 for 1, Shoaib fired in a series of inswinging thunderbolts that crippled a powerful line-up. Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh and Steve Waugh were sent back in a matter of five deliveries and Adam Gilchrist was knocked off with a missile from round the wicket. Australia lost nine wickets for 53, of which Shoaib nipped out five, to collapse to 127 all out. The Pakistan batsmen, for their part, suffered a collapse of their own to lose by 41 runs.
5 for 25 v Australia, 3rd ODI, Brisbane, 2002
Shoaib starred in another significant win for Pakistan, this time helping them seal an ODI series in Australia. He had the cushion of a competitive score and derailed an Australian line-up that struggled to put up a challenge. Ponting fell to pace, Darren Lehmann was bowled round his legs, Michael Bevan was caught behind while the tail offered little resistance. Shoaib followed up three wickets in three overs with a couple more down the order to finish with 5 for 25 and catch Australia short by 91 runs.
6 for 30 v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Wellington, 2003
Shoaib's love affair with New Zealand's batting continued in Wellington, the hosts caving in to a devastating spell to set up a memorable victory for Pakistan. His pace acquired greater potency with the movement and swing in a windy Wellington and the New Zealand batsmen failed to measure up to that. Shoaib had picked up a five-for in the first innings but his batsmen had let that effort down, conceding a lead of 170. New Zealand looked good to put it beyond the visitors in the second innings before Shoaib struck. He removed a stodgy Mark Richardson and Scott Styris off successive deliveries, and combined with seamer Shabbir Ahmed to clean up the tail. New Zealand lost seven wickets for eight runs in 10.4 overs and Pakistan's batsmen stepped up in the second innings to chase down 274.