With the 2019 edition of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup set to begin on May 30, we look back at the most memorable moments from the tournament’s four-decade-long history. You can read the entire series here.
Moment No 8
“I’ll pay his fine.”
Those were the words of a certain Brian Charles Lara after Wahab Riaz was fined 50 percent of his match fee for his behaviour during the 2015 World Cup quarter-final against Australia.
It was that sort of a bowling performance from Riaz. It won fans around the world, who cannot stop being enthralled by the sight of a Pakistan pacer, especially a left-hander, steam in and breathe fire. It was also the sort of performance that forced the International Cricket Council to enforce their code of conduct for crossing an imaginary line of harmful behaviour.
And talking about the heated spell from the Pakistani pacer, especially to Shane Watson, Lara said, “Watson looked like he was at school. It was amazing cricket. I can’t wait to meet this guy.”
Smell the leather
“When I was batting, Watson just came up to me and said, ‘Are you holding a bat?’ And that was going through my mind.”
That was Riaz’s explanation for the spell he bowled to Watson. Batting first, Pakistan scripted another one of those familiar tale of batting collapses: from 97/2, they went to 158/6 as Riaz walked in. He was at the receiving end of some fiery bowling [and taunting] from the Aussie team as Pakistan’s tail wagged in Sohaib Maqsood’s company to reach 213. Those taunts remained with Riaz and when he came out to bowl, it was as if the white new ball had a ring of fire around the seam.
Bowling as the second-change bowler, the fiery Wahab accounted for David Warner and Michael Clarke early on in the spell. By the end of the 11th over, Australia were reeling at 59/3. The short ball worked twice and the aggressive field placement paid dividends.
Then began the Watson vs. Wahab showdown. From the very first ball, when Riaz bowled a perfume-ball, as it is called, Watson was left needing the help of every muscle in his body, ones he might have rarely used as a batsman when on song and punishing bowlers. He ducked, sometimes aware where the ball was but unable to do anything about it but most times not having a clue if he was indeed able to miss the ball and survive to fight the next one.
Riaz ran up to Watson every chance he got, clapping in his face, screaming ‘come on!’ at his fielders but mostly just being loud in front of the batsman. Steve Smith at the other end got off strike as quickly as he could but Watson did not have that luxury, even if he might have wanted it more badly.
And when Watson top-edged a bouncer to Rahat Ali at fine leg, Riaz must have had adrenaline coursing through his veins. Only for the catch to be put down...
It did not stop Riaz, but slowly you could see the aggressive demeanour change. You could see the taunts turn into wry smiles, you could see the hands go from clapping in front of Watson’s face to Riaz’s hips or just pointed upwards in the air, wondering why the wickets column is still showing the number three.
“In Adelaide, he must have bowled me five [bouncers] in an over,” Watson said recently during the Pakistan Super League. “I have fond memories of the match; not because of facing an over like that from Wahab, but because of the result at the end. I now know that he bowls very fast and I didn’t at that time until I faced him. If I had my time again, I wouldn’t have sledged him when he was batting.”
In the end, even if Riaz wrote his own chapter in the book of famous World Cup performances, Misabh-ul-haq and Co were on the losing side by a misleadingly comfortable margin of six wickets and 97 balls remaining.
Watson survived, to make an unbeaten 64 off 66 balls: his ego, perhaps, bruised but not his will and wicket, unbeaten. Smith was more comfortable [only in comparative terms] early on in the innings but showed his class during his 65. Josh Hazlewood was declared the player of the match. But all anyone could talk about was Wahab Riaz.
“He bowled his heart out and was a different kind of bowler throughout this tournament. I have never seen a bowler bowling like that and if that catch had been taken who knows what could have happened?” said the Pakistan skipper after the match.
Indeed, Misbah. Pakistan lost that match due to arguably the two most Pakistan-esque aspects that cause them to lose matches: batting and fielding. But they almost won the match due to the most Pakistan-esque of reasons: pace.