Pakistan had picked left-arm fast bowler Wahab Riaz for the 2019 World Cup after struggling to find any consistency in their bowling last season.
Sarfraz Ahmed’s team were spiraling out of control, having been embarrassed at the Asia Cup last year and slipping to an ODI series whitewash in the UAE to Australia.
In a desperate hunt for a bowler who could given them some pace and control, the Pakistan management went for the tried and tested left-arm option of Riaz. This despite him not having played an ODI in two years – his last match being in the 2017 Champions Trophy – and also brushed aside by coach Mickey Arthur as a ‘has been’.
But just when the team seemed down and out after their embarrassing defeat to West Indies in the World Cop opener, Riaz sparked life into the team with a brilliant display of death bowling along with Mohammad Amir as Pakistan defeated tournament favourites England by 14 runs in Nottingham on Monday.
Riaz picked up three crucial wickets and even though he went for 82 runs, it was the timing of those wickets that proved critical in a high-scoring game as Sarfraz’s team defended their score of 348-8.
Here we take a closer look at Wahab’s display.
Wahab Riaz removes Bairstow with a back of a length delivery. Immediately after Wasim Akram is done describing the importance of it in his television analysis. Riaz's birthday gift to the great man. #TheOneTrueBhai— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) June 3, 2019
Wahab kicked things off by getting a faint edge of the dangerous Jonny Bairstow with one that kicked off the pitch. But his best was saved for the last when Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali were batting and England needed 38 from 18. Wahab first deceived Moeen with a slower bounce before hurrying Woakes with a quick short ball to take two wickets in two balls and effectively end the game. The pace, intensity and a hint of reverse swing was enough to energise Pakistan.
Wahab varied his pace brilliantly – especially at the death – and used his round-the-wicket bowling to right handers to great effect. His three wickets came at just the prefect time for Pakistan.
You wouldn’t have guessed that here was a player who had been out of the ODI team for two years and had been ‘discarded’ by the coach last year.
Wahab’s economy rate was high and with just a few run less to play with, it would have cost Pakistan the match. He is in the team because of his experience and Wahab needs to make sure that he remains the pace spearhead while maintaining a check on the scoring rate.
Wahab would have received nine but for his high economy. Even so, it was a remarkable effort from the left-arm fast bowler whose ODI career seemed done and dusted.
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