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ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2021 ODI bowling winner: Saqib Mahmood stuns Pakistan

The right-armer turned in a performance that showcased England's impressive white-ball depth

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
10-Feb-2022
Called up after England were required to replace their entire ODI squad due to a Covid outbreak in the main group, Mahmood ended up as the attack leader in Cardiff despite having a grand total of four ODI caps to his name at the time. But if there were any doubts about whether a second-string XI would be able to compete with Pakistan, they were banished by the end of Mahmood's opening over.
His first delivery was right on the money, nibbling back to trap Imam-ul-Haq lbw on review. Out walked Babar Azam, Pakistan's captain and the ICC's No. 1-ranked ODI batter; two balls later he was walking back in. When Saud Shakeel was pinned in front with the final ball of the seventh over, Pakistan were in a world of trouble at 26 for 4, and Mahmood later returned to have Faheem Ashraf caught behind, bowling out his allocation early as England went for the kill.

Key moment

The removal of Babar for a second-ball duck turned England's good start into a sensational one. There was just a smidge of assistance for the bowlers early on and Mahmood harnessed it adroitly, charging in from the Cathedral Road End. A good-length ball just outside off, 140kph and holding its line, was enough to draw an uncertain push, and the outside edge was gratefully scooped up low at second slip.

The numbers

7 Number of previous ODI caps among England's five-man attack in Cardiff (of which Mahmood had four).
13.66 Mahmood's average for the series, in which he took nine wickets in three games to be named Player of the Series.

What they said

"Getting a wicket first ball is obviously the best start you can get off to. To get two in the first over was unbelievable"
- Saqib Mahmood

The closest contenders

Mitchell Starc
5 for 48 vs West Indies, first ODI, Bridgetown

A new-ball blitz wrecked any hopes West Indies had of chasing 257. Starc struck in his first, second and third overs as the home side imploded and fell to 27 for 6, and then returned to help finish off a minor revival by having Kieron Pollard caught at slip for 56
Dushmantha Chameera
5 for 16 vs Bangladesh, third ODI, Mirpur

Chameera finally began to fulfil some of the promise of his early years, taking his maiden ODI five-for to derail Bangladesh. The top three fell in a constricting opening spell of 3 for 11. Nos. 8 and 9 were later summarily dispatched to complete immaculate figures

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick