ICC Cricket World Cup 2015: Wahab Riaz vs Shane Watson – a contest to remember

Mitchell Starc has undoubtedly been one of the best seamers of the ongoing edition of ICC World Cup 2015. Claimed to be ‘soft’ a few months back by legendary maverick spinner Shane Warne, Starc made a commendable comeback and ripped through the batsmen’s defense with fearsome pace, so intimidating, that his compatriot Mitchell Johnson’s incredible form seemed to be a thing of the past.

It was because of Starc that we all witnessed another scintillating spell of fast bowling in the third quarter-final of cricket’s showpiece event, the only difference being it came from Wahab Riaz.

Since the demise of Phillip Hughes, the Aussies have considerably been less vocal on the field. But against Pakistan, Starc & Co were at their best while Wahab was batting. Australia have a history of pressurizing the best batsmen with sledging, but this was a different case.

Even though he doesn’t have the reputation of causing much damage with the bat, Wahab was possibly Pakistan’s best player in the tournament and for some reasons the Aussies wanted to get rid of him. Starc kept reminding Wahab ‘it was the white thing’ he had to hit as his teammates added more fuel to the fire by sledging from different fielding positions.

Little did Starc know that Shane Watson would have to suffer for his provocation of Wahab.

The war started the moment Watto came to the crease with Wahab welcoming him with a screamer! There was no respite for the all-rounder as Wahab bowled his heart out and tried to boost the morale of his teammates by clapping and cheering them by standing close enough to Watson, who possibly was praying for the intimidating spell to end.

What was interesting to see was the way Watson handled the situation. He is not someone who would stand at the crease and let the bowler dominate with his spell as well as words. You expect Watson to scream, to yell back at the bowler. But barring a couple of heated exchanges, Watson was calm enough to smile back at Wahab, who bowled a venomous spell. I reckon Watson would not have good things to think about Starc, while he tried his best to see Wahab’s spell through.

The crowd was behind the Aussies and every time the ball reached Wahab, he was booed. That didn’t stop him from bowling snorters, and had Pakistan grabbed on to two chances he created off Watson and Glenn Maxwell, the outcome of the match could have been different.

It was only when Watson hit the winning boundary, that he expressed himself by raising his arms in celebration. He should be lauded to have weathered the storm while Wahab seemed to pick a wicket in almost every over.

In a tournament where praise has often been reserved for the batsmen, Wahab’s spell was a breath of fresh air, especially since he isn’t rated highly by the cricket cognoscenti. Credit must also be given to Starc, who got the best out of Wahab with his words.

Pakistan may have been knocked out of the tournament before the semis, but Wahab’s spell – possibly one of the best in history of World Cup will be discussed for a very long time.
Next time when Australia and Pakistan meet in an ODI, Starc might bowl a quiet spell to Wahab. At least Watson would want him to.

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