Wahab Riaz is, presently, one of those fast-bowlers on whom Pakistan is dependent heavily. The left-arm pacer from the land of Pakistan, in his prime, reflects the Wasim Akram of 90s, not only through his action but his decent pace and swing.
The world of cricket will remember this left-arm pacer, who turns 32 today, for two of the most devastating spell of bowling in recent times.
The first one was against the arch-rivals Indians. It was the semi-final clash of the 2011 World Cup in Mohali. The fact that he was the reason why Shoaib Akhtar could not play his last ODI and the last World Cup match had put immense pressure on Riaz’s shoulders. The Pakistani think tank had put all their faith in his abilities and it was about time Wahab Riaz performed with the ball
The pressure to perform built on as Virender Sehwag had given the best possible start to India, punishing Umar Gul in only the first over of the match. Wahab Riaz was called to curtail Sehwag and he replied brilliantly by picking him up in his first over only. India had recovered from the initial fall of wickets and were going strong at 141 for 2 in 25 overs. It was then that Riaz was given the ball again by Shahid Afridi. The 32-year-old did not disappoint his captain as he not only picked up Virat Kohli on the second ball of the over but bowled Yuvraj Singh off the next ball to await a hat-trick.
He could not pull off the hat-trick but these two wickets had put India on backfoot. These two wickets had also announced Wahab Riaz’s entry in the world cricket. Although Pakistan ended up losing the match, Wahab Riaz had a memorable one as he finished with an outstanding figure of 5 for 46.
The second such instance was when Wahab Riaz won the day with his sheer pace. It was the 3rd quarter-final played between Australia and Pakistan in the World Cup 2015 in Adelaide. Wahab Riaz’s figures of 2 for 54 might not reflect on the quality of fast bowling that was on offer that night. Shane Watson can tell us better about that Wahab Riaz bowling spell for he smelled the leather more than anyone.
Riaz was at his animated best. Pakistan cricket fans were seeing a fast-bowler causing problems to a batsman after a very long time. There were occasions when the ball almost hit Watson’s helmet. At times, Watson would not know what to do but stare back at Riaz. This was a spirited Wahab Riaz who was defending a meagre 213 on the board. Riaz bowled, clapped, cheered to lift the spirits of other Pakistani cricketers on the field.
Australia went on to win the match by 6 wickets but the win did not come easy to them, courtesy a gutsy spell of bowling by Wahab Riaz.