It’s Wahab Riaz’s 35th birthday and he has 35 world cup wickets, second highest for Pakistan. The World Cup has always been a big platform for Wahab, where he has always performed his best. He has represented Pakistan in 3 ODI World Cups so far, where he has taken total of 35 wickets at an average of 26.45. 8 in 2011, 16 in 2015 and 11 in WC 2019
Overall, he has 83 Test wickets, 30 T20Is, and 115 ODI wickets. In ODIs, he is only the second left-arm Pakistan bowler to take 100 ODI wickets.
Let’s dig in and look at some of his finest World Cup performances.
That “spell” to Watson
Australia vs Pakistan, Quarter-Final 3, Adelaide, ICC Cricket World Cup 2015
Australia (216-4) beat Pakistan (213 all out) by 6 wickets
If there had to be a top Wahab moment, it would be this one. Wahab vs Watson.
Pakistan batted first and managed only 213 and Wahab scored 16 out of those. But when it came to bowl, Wahab was on fire. He first bounced out David Warner, who was caught at deep third man and then Michael Clarke at short leg.
Shane Watson entered and Wahab from ball one gave Watson a fiery start. He bowled short balls to Watson, hoping to keep him unsettle and bounce him out as he did to the other two. The plan went perfectly, only to be dropped by Rahay Ali at deep fine leg. That dropped cost Pakistan as Australia cruised to a troubled yet comfortable victory by six wickets.
Michael Clarke called it “one of the fastest spells” he has seen. Wahab’s figures of 2-54 may look ordinary, but those who have watched the game will remember this fiery spell for a long, long time.
5-fer against arch-rivals
India vs Pakistan, Semi-Final 1, Mohali, ICC Cricket World Cup 2011
India (260-9) beat Pakistan (231 all out) by 29 runs
Wahab was playing his just fifth World Cup match. He had already taken 3 wickets in his maiden tournament. Pakistan was playing against their arch-rivals India in the biggest stage of the tournament. In this game, Wahab took his first and only five-wicket haul to date with figures of 5-46.
Virender Sehwag was his first wicket, who went smashing the bowlers early in the powerplay. Wahab had him LBW. He then picked the wicket of Virat Kohli, nicking him to point. He dismissed MS Dhoni who was LBW as well. Then got the wicket of Zaheer Khan, caught behind.
The highlight of his wicket was Yuvraj Singh. After the wicket of Virat Kohli, Yuvraj was clean bowled for the first ball. That ball was reversed in-swing yorker that rattled the stumps.
Apart from a strong performance from Wahab that kept India to 260, Pakistan lost the game by 29 runs as their batting did not click to chase the target down. But Wahab’s performance will be remembered.
Upsetting the hosts
England vs Pakistan, Group Stage, Nottingham, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Pakistan (348-8) beat England (334-9) by 14 runs
Prior to the 2019 World Cup and the England vs Pakistan series, Wahab was left out from the original squad. He last played an ODI match on June 4th, 2017, where Pakistan lost to India in the Champions Trophy match as he returned a figure of 0-82 in 8.4 overs before he was ruled out due to injury.
However, after the England vs Pakistan series, Wahab was recalled into the side for the major tournament and he was determined to prove Mickey Arthur wrong, who in 2018 said that Wahab “did not win us a game for two years”.
Pakistan did not win a single game in their last 12 matches. And they were up against England. Pakistan posted 348, their second-highest World Cup total. And as Pakistan defended, Wahab did his part. Though he was expensive going 8 an over, Wahab picked three vital wickets of Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes. He even took a good catch to dismiss Jofra Archer. These contributions helped Pakistan win by 14 runs and kick their World Cup campaign on.
All-round show against Zimbabwe
Pakistan vs Zimbabwe, Group Stage, Brisbane, ICC Cricket World Cup 2015
Pakistan (235-7) beat Zimbabwe (215 all out) by 20 runs
Pakistan was playing their third game of 2015 edition. They lost to India and West Indies early on. Against Zimbabwe, they were at their worst. But Wahab played a crucial all-rounder role to lift Pakistan.
First, in batting, Pakistan was struggling at 155-6 with still over 11 overs to go. Wahab arrived at the crease and scored 54* from 46 balls. It was his second fifty which led Pakistan to 235.
Then in bowling, Wahab picked four wickets in his figure of 4-45 and also attempted a run out which led Zimbabwe to be bowled out for 215. This victory opened Pakistan’s campaign where they qualified for the knockouts.
Batting with a broken thumb
Pakistan vs Afghanistan, Group Stage, Headingley, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Pakistan (230-7) beat Afghanistan (227-9) by 3 wickets
Pakistan needed to win all the matches in order to have a chance to qualify for the Knockout stage. Afghanistan, who did not have a bright tournament, challenged them.
Afghanistan managed 227-9 where Wahab picked a couple of wickets in figures of 2-29. During the batting, however, after the dismissals of Babar and Imam, Pakistan suffered a collapse. They were 206-7, needing 21 from the final three overs when Wahab arrived. How can we all remember that six he lifted over mid-wicket off Rashid Khan? That six led Pakistan closer to their target and eventually won the game by three wickets. Wahab was playing with a broken thumb on his right hand but gave Pakistan a big victory.
Pakistan vs Afghanistan became a new rivalry that will now be followed by many others.
Bouncing out the Proteas
Pakistan vs South Africa, Group Stage, Auckland, ICC Cricket World Cup 2015
Pakistan (222 all out) beat South Africa (202 all out) by 29 runs (D/L Method)
After bouncing back from back to back defeats to back to back victories, Pakistan were up against South Africa, who had lost only one game they had played. Pakistan needed a win against them. And going by records, Pakistan had never beaten South Africa in world cups.
Pakistan managed 222 in their innings. South Africa was coming off two 400+ totals in their last two games. Though they had an early success with Irfan dismissing Quinton de Kock, South Africa was steady at their chase. Wahab entered the attack and dismissed Hashim Amla and Rilee Rossouw. This left South Africa from 67-1 to 77-5. Though he got a good beating from AB de Villiers, Wahab took the final wicket of his figures of 3-45 to give Pakistan their first-ever victory over South Africa.
Almost won the match
Australia vs Pakistan, Group Stage, Taunton, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Australia (307 all out) beat Pakistan (266 all out) by 41 runs
After defeating the host England and then had their match against Sri Lanka washed out, Pakistan met Australia at Taunton. Australia posted 307. Pakistan made a brilliant comeback after Australia were 146-0. Besides Amir, Wahab was the second-best bowler with figures of 1-44.
But it was his batting that we all remember. While chasing the total, Pakistan found themselves at 200-7 when Wahab came. He scored a sensible 45. However, Mitchell Starc had him caught behind. But it took Aaron Finch almost a whole 15 seconds to take a review and it turned out to be successful. We all imagine, had Finch failed to take a review at the allotted time, maybe Wahab could have won the match for us.
Cleaning up the tail with ease
Pakistan vs South Africa, Group Stage, London, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Pakistan (308-7) beat South Africa (259-9) by 49 runs
This was an important match for both sides. A loss here knocks them out of the tournament. Pakistan posted 308 in their completed overs on the back of fifties from Babar and in particular, Haris Sohail.
Wahab picked three wickets for 46, again being the best bowler in the match. Though his three wickets came of a lower order, his reverse swinging deliveries were a treat to watch. At that time, it was something that Pakistan missed at the death overs and Wahab filled that spot nicely.