Four phenomenal bowling feats

G. VISWANATH

Glenn McGrath (centre) is congratulated by his teammates, after the fall of a Namibian wicket in Potchefstroom, The Aussie took seven for 15, the best bowling figures in the history of World Cup.-Pic. AP

Talented, gifted and intelligent bowlers have obliterated the records that stood for more than a quarter century in the premier event. Winston Davis and Gary Gilmour had revelled in the World Cup. The Australian left-arm seamer, Gilmour, had played two matches in the 1975 competition and bowled two great spells at Leeds (six for 14 against England) and Lord's (five for 48 against West Indies) and eight years later the Leeward Islands fast medium bowler, Davis, skittled out Australia with a spell of seven for 51.

Now and then some fine bowlers have appeared in the quadrennial competition, but no one paid attention to their records. Gilmour and Davis excelled with the ball when the World Cup was played 60 overs a side and a bowler was permitted to bowl 12 overs. Their feats had happened in helpful conditions, where seamers had prospered.

It has been a long time since seamers made an impact in the World Cup competition. The events in the sub-continent were favourable to spinners than seamers. Davis' record remained intact for two decades, though bowlers of all types bettered his record in other tournaments.

In fact. Chaminda Vaas' eight for 19 is the best ever performance in the one-day international. The Sri Lankan captured eight Zimbabwean batsmen: Dion Ebrahim, Grant Flower, Stuart Carlisle, Andy Flower, Craig Wishart, Tatenda Taibu, Heath Streak and M. Nkala at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground last year. Vaas's effort was phenomenal.

Vaas is probably the first left-arm seamer to play for Sri Lanka, which was served well by right-arm bowlers like Asantha de Mel, S. Goonatillke, Tony Opatha, Rumesh Ratnayake, Ravi Ratnayake and Saliya Ahangama. De Mel'e most memorable performances came in the 1983 World Cup when he excelled against New Zealand (five for 32) at Derby and took five for 39 against Pakistan at Leeds.

But Vaas bettered the Sri Lankan record and moved into the top 10 of the World Cup record. He took three wickets of his first three balls against Bangladesh at the City Oval, Pietermaritzburg on Fenruary 14. He bowled Bangladesh opener Hannan Sarkar, caught Mohammad Ashraful off his own bowling, had Ehsanul Haque caught by Mahela Jayawardene and then of his fifth ball trapped Sanwar Hussain leg before. Thereafter, he took two more wickets — opener Al Sahariar and Mashrafe Mortaza — to finish with a staggering figure of six for 25 in 9.1 overs. He became the third bowler to perform a hat-trick in World Cup, after India's Chetan Sharma and Pakistan's Saqlain Mushtaq.

Twelve days later at Kingsmead, Durban, Ashish Nehra, playing in his 34th match for India, produced an incisive spell that spelt England's doom. Nehra suffered an ankle injury while bowling against Namibia at Pietermaritzburg. But the Indian captain Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright bagged Nehra to the hilt. The latter always believed in Nehra's bowling skill. This the Indian vindicated by taking six wickets in 10 overs, against England. His victims were Michael Vaughan, Nasser Hussain, Alec Stewart, Paul Collinwood, Craig White and Ronnie Irani.

Nehra's stupendous spell took him one notch above Vaas in the World Cup honours. He also became the second Indian bowler to take six wickets in a one-day internationals; the first was Anil Kumble, who took six for 12 against the West Indies in the Hero Cup final at the Eden Gardens, Calcutta.

The day after Nehra's great spell, Australia's Glenn McGrath was in a devastating mood against Namibia. The Aussies finished off the match in 14 overs. McGrath took the wickets of Jan-Berry Burger, Morne Karg, Danie Keulder, Gavin Mugatroyd, Deon Kotze, Louis Burger and Bjorn Kotze.

Nicknamed `Pigeon,' McGrath lowered Davis's feat. His seven for 15 in seven overs, out of which four were maidens, is a tribute to his skill. In the process of his magnificent spell, McGrath became the leading wicket- taker for Australia in World Cup history. Leg spinner Shane Warne has a tally of 32 wickets and had the chance to go further, but for the sad exit due to positive dope test.

Then it was the turn of Andy Bichel, who routed England that was given a rousing start by Marcus Trescothick and Nick Knight. England looked good to make the Super Six. The team attacked McGrath with gusto and countered Brett Lee's pace with aplomb. But it had no answer to Bichel's straightforward bowling. The Aussie sent back Knight in the first over and reduced England from 66 for no loss to 87 for five.

The Queenslander took the wickets of Nick Knight, Michael Vaughan, Nasser Hussain, Alec Stewart, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff and Ashley Giles in the course of his stirring display.

Bichel's seven for 20 broke six records and placed him behind McGrath (seven for 15) in the World Cup roll of honour. It's unlikely that these two performances will be surpassed in the World Cup.

The best bowling in World Cups now is: 1. Glenn McGrath seven for 15 v Namibia 2003; 2. Andy Bichel seven for 20 v England 2003; 3. Winston Davis seven for 51 v Australia 1983; 4. Gary Gilmour six for 14 v England 1975; 5. Ashish Nehra six for 23 v England 2003; 6. Chaminda Vaas six for 25 v Bangladesh 2003; 7. Ken MaCleay six for 39 v India 1983.