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Sunday 28 June 2020
The most memorable of these came against Australia in the quarter-final of the 2015 World Cup. Pakistan had been bowled out for just 213 at the Adelaide Oval and had to do something special in order to qualify for the semis.
Wahab Riaz was on song from the outset. The pacer bowled fast, he bowled aggressively and he bowled menacingly short. Riaz was successful in removing David Warner and Michael Clarke - the two biggest threats in the Australian batting line-up.
He was now after Shane Watson. Riaz was particularly switched on during that spell because it was Watson, among others, who had shot verbal volleys during Riaz's 22-ball stay at the crease in which he had scored 16 runs.
Riaz bowled full tilt, clocking speeds in excess of 150 kph. There was hardly any delivery which landed in Watson's half and it was all 'smell the leather' stuff, as the famous West Indian quicks used to call it.
Had it not been for the dropped catch from Rahat Ali at deep square leg off a miscued Watson hook, Pakistan may have been on to something special. However, Watson had the last laugh as he guided Australia to the semi-final with an unbeaten 64.
The next best of the three performances came in the 2011 World Cup semi-final against arch rivals India, where he was taken a punt on ahead of Shoaib Akhtar. Riaz got attention from all across the world after his best ODI figures of 5/46 in this game. His dismissals included big names like Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni and Zaheer Khan.
The most remembered of these was the wicket of Yuvraj Singh, the Man of the tournament, who was sent back for a golden duck off a fast, in-swinging yorker on his home ground in Mohali.
However, the Pakistan batsmen could not complement his bowling and were bowled out for 231, conceding a 29-run defeat. Pakistan were knocked out of the World Cup but Riaz's performance on the biggest stage increased his fan following by leaps and bounds.
The third most memorable outing for the Pakistan pacer came on his Test debut. Pakistan were on a 4-Test tour of England in 2010 and had not started well with defeats by 354 runs and 9 wickets in the first two Tests. In the third Test, the team decided to give Wahab Riaz his first Test cap, and the pacer did not disappoint.
He picked up a 5-wicket haul in the first innings which included the scalps of Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan and Stuart Broad. Riaz became the 9th Pakistan bowler to take a 5-wicket haul on debut.
Mohammad Amir backed it up with a 5-fer of his own in the second innings and Pakistan won the match by 4 wickets. However, the victory and Riaz's performance was soon forgotten as the narrative shifted towards Pakistan's spot fixing in the next Test at Lord's.
Riaz still has a good couple of years of cricket left in him and recently expressed his availability for selection in the Test series against England, after having taken a break from the red-ball format. Although consistency remains an issue, Riaz is still pretty much a part of Pakistan's white-ball plans.
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