By Carl Jaison:
The Watto-Wahab Saga:
The Aussies are well-known for playing aggressive cricket and Riaz was at the receiving end of some momentary chattering around him led by Shane Watson. Little did the burly Aussie know what would be in store for him later in the evening. In one of the most remarkable spells of modern-day cricket, a charged-up Wahab Riaz sent shivers down the spine of Aussie all-rounder Shane Watson with an array of short-pitched deliveries that threatened to prevent an Aussie comeback. Having lost both their openers cheaply chasing a modest score of 210 for victory, Australia were stuttering at 65-3 when Watson joined Steven Smith at the crease. Riaz had dismissed Warner and skipper Clarke in quick succession to put Pakistan in the driver’s seat. Watson was greeted with a nasty bouncer following which Riaz continued his follow-through right up to the bating crease and clapped with gusto while egging his team on. Watson looked completely nonplussed. A few beaten deliveries, couple of near-dismissals (including a dropped catch at deep fine leg) and a flourishing drive from the blade of Smith resulted in Riaz losing his cool and vented his frustration at Watto. Despite instructions from the umpires, Watson felt no reason to shrug it off and gave a mouthful in reply. Meanwhile, Pakistan were quickly losing grip of the game owing to some pathetic catching and resilience shown by the Watson-Smith partnership against all odds. Eventually, Watson had the last laugh when he pulled Riaz for a convincing boundary and followed it up with an elegant leg glance. Though Riaz bowled his heart out, he ended up on the losing side but accolades came pouring in for the lion-hearted left-armer for his never-say-die attitude. Watson later admitted that he was fortunate enough to survive Riaz’s hostile spell and credited it as one of the toughest he’d faced. However, his kind words didn’t deter the match official from slapping a 50% (Riaz) and 15% (Watson) fines on their respective match-fees but the cricketing world was treated to a sumptuous duel between bat and ball, one that was long pending since the Sachin-Akhtar era.
Man on a Mission:
Ask any Proteas fan how distraught they felt on losing to India during the early part of the tournament. It wasn’t because they were on the look-out for revenge or desperate for a win. It was simply the manner in which they bowed down without even putting up a decent fight. The unpleasant ‘chokers’ tag came to haunt them again. If there was one man who wanted to make up for that nightmarish performance in resounding fashion, it would have to be the exceptionally-talented AB De Villiers. He was determined to silence the critics but in the process chose the hapless West Indies bowling attack to face his wrath. What the crowd witnessed on that particular day was batsmanship at its best, phenomenal and brutal. The plunder began when Rossouw and de Villiers - batting first as opposed to chasing, which is when their team tends to struggle - showed no signs of the circumspection that was a feature of their defeat to India. The two added 134 in 12.3 overs. West Indies managed to break the prospect of twin centuries by sending Rossouw back with the score at 280 in the 43rd over, but the real true unadulterated mayhem was yet to be unleashed. Jason Holder brought himself on and in a complete meltdown he bowled length deliveries, two no-balls and went for 34 runs in the 48th over, all off the dreaded blade of De Villiers. It not only spoiled his figures but also enabled De Villiers to reach the fastest ever 150 off the 64th ball he faced. South Africa went on to post a mammoth 408 and in reply, West Indies couldn’t even score as much as De Villiers did. It was an innings that only proved why Gilchrist was spot on when he described the South African skipper as ‘the most talented cricketer on the planet.’
Sanga’s 4 Back-to-Back Tons:
This was certainly one of the super-human efforts in the history of ODI cricket as Kumar Sangakkara entered the record books by being the first batsman to score 4 hundreds in a row and that too on a world-cup stage! Sri-Lanka started their campaign on a losing note to New Zealand but since then the wicket-keeper batsman has looked more solid than ever before. His run-fest was kickstarted against Bangladesh in which he scored an unbeaten 105. But the most spectacular of his four innings was witnessed in their crucial group-match against England in which he scored a match-winning 117, remaining unbeaten en route to a memorable win. Against Australia, Sangakkara showed his true masterclass by keeping Sri Lanka in the hunt, for most part of the game, chasing a huge target for victory. The Lankan lions eventually faltered in the dying moments of the game and handed the Aussies a hard-earned win. Meanwhile, Sangakkara had notched up his third consecutive ton, a rare feat in itself. In their last group-match against Scotland, all eyes were on the former Lankan captain who was on the threshold of a major record-breaking moment. And when he finally achieved the impossible, he also surpassed Jack Kallis tally (62) to grab the third spot in the list of most international centuries hit in both forms of the game. He made a lone, fighting 45 in their heavy quarterfinal loss to South Africa as he bid adieu to the cricketing world one last time only to be remembered as one of the true champions the game has ever seen.
Elliot Powering NZ to First WC Finals:
Elliot was perhaps destined to do the job for his country in one of the most scintillating knock-out matches ever played. He was named in the New Zealand squad for Champions Trophy in 2009, when he had his first real tryst with high-pressure cricket. Elliott played the semi-final clash against a mercurial Pakistan in a tense chase. New Zealand were in a spot of bother at 71 for three and then at 126 for four chasing 234. Pakistan’s attack posed much threat as New Zealand needed a cool head to craft the chase. Enter Elliott who held the innings together in partnership with then captain Daniel Vettori, much like on Tuesday. Elliott scored an unbeaten 103-ball 75 as New Zealand fashioned a famous win. Grant Elliott was a little boy growing up in Johannesburg when he was suspended from playing cricket for a while in his school because he had stayed at home watching the opening game of the 1992 World Cup between Australia and South Africa. Twenty-three years down the line, here was the man at Eden Park, bringing the curtains down on the hopes of the country where he grew up. There was nothing slam-bang about his cricket; it was just excellent timing of his shots. With New Zealand in a spot of bother, Elliot partnered with Corey Anderson to script one of the most famous wins for the Kiwis. Even with wickets falling during the crucial junctures of the game, Elliot held his nerve to clobber a six in the penultimate ball of the match off Dale Steyn. So in six years, Elliott has fashioned two major semi-final wins. Then in 2009, Elliott and New Zealand failed at the final hurdle at the hands of Australia, can they go one better this time?
Outrageous Shots Galore:
And finally, here is a look-back on the five memorable, jaw-dropping strikes from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015:
Australia were being sternly examined by Wahab Riaz in the quarter-final, but Glenn Maxwell turned on the style, smashing 44 off 29 balls that included a stroke which he described as "the back away, look away, deliberate cut through point". Wahab followed Maxwell, who was making room outside leg, with a short ball. Maxwell slapped it away, half cutting, half pulling, his fast hands directing operations awkwardly but effectively. Maxwell admitted that he was almost undone, saying: 'Well bowled Wahab! Had me!"
There is nothing AB de Villiers cannot do. After going down to India, South Africa rebounded strongly, their captain leading the way with 162* off 66. On his way to the fastest 150 in ODIs, de Villiers stunned Andre Russell by running across to off and sweep-scooping one to the square leg boundary. As Dale Steyn puts it: "It's like watching the Matrix movie. There's Neo right there. He doesn't understand how good he is."
In Perth, Shapoor Zadran with his Shoaib Akhtar-inspired run-up steamed in and missed a yorker. Maxwell reversed his stance and flicked a 140kph full toss over the third-man boundary with consummate ease. He went onto smite 88 off 39 balls as Australia surged to the highest total in World Cup history.
Kane Williamson's lofted six may not be as outrageous as Maxwell's or de Villiers', but its impact was decisive - it was the clincher in a nail-biting Trans-Tasman clash. Mitchell Starc's fiery spell left New Zealand needing six runs with only one wicket in hand. An uber-cool Williamson, who was aware that mid-on was in the circle, targeted the short straight boundary and launched Pat Cummins for a six, sealing the deal for New Zealand.
Rilee Rossouw played the pick-up truck to the Rolls-Royce in de Villiers against West Indies, but his flying uppercut might have left even de Villiers envious. Rossouw reached his fifty by leaping off his feet, getting on top of the bounce and cracking Jerome Taylor over backward point.