Fast bowlers and Pakistan are synonyms in cricket. Despite having a corrupt and failed domestic system, we have somehow produced unmatched fast bowlers consistently. From Sarfraz Nawaz to Hasan Ali, Pakistan has delighted the cricket world with lethal fast bowling maestros. Interestingly, there are at least three occasions where two consecutive deliveries from Pakistani fast bowlers announced their arrival on the international stage. Let me know what’s your favorite.
Waseem Akram vs England – WC 1992 Final, Melbourne 1992
Chasing 250 to lift the world cup for the first time, England probably had the best chance in their cricket history to assert their authority as the pioneer of the gentlemen’s game.
After an early wobble that included the famous angry-bad-mouthing from Ian Botham as he was adjudged caught behind, England settled in banking on the experience of Allan Lamb and Neil Fairbrother. They came together when England was 69/4 and added 72 in just 14 overs.
Waseem Akram, who was responsible for Botham’s early exit, was given a 34 over old ball as the partnership between Allan Lamb and Neil Fairbrother started developing into a real threat for Pakistan.
What followed was a moment that changed the game completely in Pakistan’s favor.
Bowling round the wicket, Akram produced a beauty that drew a forward front foot push from well set Allan Lamb, only to viciously leave him stunned as the ball swung past the bat, just enough to hit the off stump.
Chris Lewis replaced him and Akram roared back next ball too as a late in-swinger took the inside edge before crashing into stumps.
Although Akram made his ODI debut in 1984, these two deliveries really announced him on the international stage as a big match performer who can singlehandedly swing the match, in literal terms , to his side.
Decades passed by but these two deliveries are still cherished by cricket lovers as the key moment of World Cup 92.
Shoaib Akhtar vs India – Asian Test Championship, Kolkata 1999
Inaugural match of Asian Test Championship was in progress between archrivals, Pakistan and India, at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. Responding to Pakistan’s first innings total of 185, India was cruising along at 147/2 with Sadagoppan Ramesh and Rahul Dravid making life difficult for Pakistani bowlers.
Rahul Dravid, also called ‘The Wall’ for his text book technique and impeccable defence, had faced 92 deliveries and was on course for a big innings.
It was the 51st over of the day and play was resumed just after the drinks break. Bowling over the wicket, Shoaib Akhtar produced late in-swinging delivery at fiery pace that destroyed the foundations of ‘The Wall’ as the ball crashed into the base of leg-stump leaving Rahul Dravid shocked.
However, the bigger surprise was yet to come.
Dravid left and unarguably the greatest batsman of modern times, Sachin Tendulkar stepped in. Kolkata crowd welcomed their hero with typical joy and zeal without knowing that it’s not going to last long.
Sachin received a gem, a perfectly bowled in-swinging delivery, aimed at middle stump that started swinging from outside the off-stump and beat him completely. It was the first golden duck for the golden boy as his middle stump went for a walk.
He nodded as he realized that he is completely taken by the Rawalpindi Express. Hook, line and sinker.
It was the announcement of the arrival of Shoaib Akhtar on the international stage and the cricketing world still cherishes these two deliveries as probably, and arguably, the best work of red-ball art in recent times.
Muhammad Amir vs India – Champions Trophy Final, London 2017
Numbers don’t lie. But they don’t tell the complete story too. Muhammad Amir’s couple of deliveries that announced his re-commencement to international arena is a perfect example in this regard.
On the paper, it’s one wicket in two balls but that’s total injustice.
Pakistan, batting first in the final of Champions Trophy, posted a very healthy score of 338/4 in 50 overs. Indian batting line up, led by the best batsman in the world in limited overs cricket, Virat Kohli, was expected to put up a strong response. However, their hopes were dented straight away when Muhammad Amir caught Rohit Sharma plumb in front.
Then came the two deliveries that showcased Amir’s brilliance. Bowling to Virat Kohli, a short length ball bowled with enough pace to bother batsman of Kohli’s class took outside edge and flew to slip cordon.
Azhar, fielding at slip, was unable to hold on to a straight-forward chance and Pakistan fans thought that they have dropped the Champions Trophy.
Then came the next delivery, an absolute peach that exploited Kohli’s tendency to flick the ball curling into his pads. He misread the length and closed the face of the bat a bit early producing another outside edgy flying towards point where Shadab grabbed it jumping to his left.
These two deliveries helped Amir getting back his status of star-player who can win big matches for his team.