Cricket World Cup History: Players who took 4 wickets or more on World Cup debut

  • Bowlers who took four wickets and above on their World Cup debut.
Modified 29 May 2019, 11:03 IST

Mohammed Shami
Mohammed Shami

It is often said that cricket is a batsman’s game, particularly the limited-overs versions. Bowlers have limited opportunities, just 10 overs (12 earlier), wickets are flat, bats have got chunkier, the law relating to wides forces them to bowl accurately rather than aggressively, and fielders are in defensive positions. And despite all of that, wicket-taking is a vital element of success.

But bowlers have got smarter, they have developed more and more variations, and brilliant fielding standards have lent a huge helping hand. It is, therefore, no surprise that there are invariably more hauls of four wickets and above than centuries in the one-day game. There have been some interesting instances by players making their World Cup debut too.

The first day of the ICC Cricket World Cup, 7th June 1975, saw the West Indies left-arm paceman Bernard Julien pick up four for 20 against minnows Sri Lanka. Not one to stay out of the limelight, the great Aussie speedster Dennis Lillee grabbed a five-wicket haul the same afternoon.

The Aussies put up a challenging score of 278 for seven in the allotted 60 overs. Lillee sent Pakistani opener Sadiq Mohammad's stumps cartwheeling in his second over. Majid Khan played a nonchalant knock, and skipper Asif Iqbal and Wasim Raja added 77 runs for the fifth wicket with a great degree of ease. At 181 for four, Pakistan were cruising.

Then Lillee returned to the attack. He knocked back Asif Iqbal's stumps. Later he scythed through the tail in a flash, twice in combination with his legendary partner behind the stumps, Rodney Marsh.

Pakistan lost their last six wickets for a mere 24 runs to be all out for 205 with seven overs still remaining. From a position of strength, they had crashed to a crushing defeat.

Like so often in his career, Lillee first prised open the door, and once in, demolished the opposition with a vengeance - till the last man went down. Lillee finished with five for 34 off his 12 overs.

The inaugural tournament also saw the Australian left-handed all-rounder Gary Gilmour dazzle in the semi-final and final, despite not having played any of the group matches. Interestingly, he never appeared in the World Cup again.

The conditions were just right for the pacers at Headingley. Skipper Ian Chappell sent England in on the green-top, and the ball swung wildly in the overcast and windy conditions.


Bowling over the wicket, Gilmour swung the ball sharply into the right-handers, while angling it away at other times. He would even swing it away from the right-handers on occasion. The batsmen were unsure which way Gilmour’s deliveries were going to go.

He had England in deep trouble from the very start. Dennis Amiss was leg-before to a wicked in-swinger. So were Keith Fletcher and Allan Knott, while Frank Hayes shouldered arms thinking the ball was leaving him.

Another incoming delivery knocked out Barry Wood’s off-stump. Tony Grieg was the only Gilmour victim claimed by a ball leaving him.

At the end of Gilmour’s 12-over spell, England’s innings was in a shambles. He had taken all the six wickets for 14 runs, with six of the overs being scoreless. It was the first time any bowler had taken six wickets in a one-day international, a truly devastating performance.

After the match Ian Chappell revealed: "Lillee preferred to bowl down the hill. That gave Gilmour the wind coming over his shoulder and it suited him fine. It was a magnificent piece of bowling."

Even after Gilmour came off, there was no respite for the hapless English batsmen. They capsized to just 93 off 36.2 overs. Then with his own team in disarray at 39 for six, Gilmour joined Doug Walters to carry his team into the final.

On the big day at Lord’s, Gilmour bagged a five-wicket haul but the West Indies clinched a narrow 17-run win to lift the first Prudential World Cup.

In 1979, it was the ‘Rolls-Royce of fast bowlers’ Michael Holding who took four for 33 on his first appearance in the World Cup, against an Indian team out of depth in this form of the game.

The 1983 World Cup got off to a sensational start as newcomers Zimbabwe upset Australia. The star of the show was the captain Duncan Fletcher. Playing a fine hand with the bat, he rescued his side from a precarious 94 for five to a respectable 239 for 6 wickets in their 60 overs.

After the Australian openers Graeme Wood and Kepler Wessels put on 61 runs, Fletcher made his presence felt again. He had Wood taken behind and without further ado, consumed his counterpart Kim Hughes as well.

Wessels and David Hookes tried to force the pace as they added 51 runs. Hookes was then caught splendidly by the former South African off-spinner John Traicos, the only player with Test experience in the Zimbabwean side. The bowler: Duncan Fletcher.

Graham Yallop left to another fine catch, this time by Pycroft, with Fletcher having claimed all the four wickets.

With the asking-rate climbing, the Australians had to scramble towards their target. Rodney Marsh and Rodney Hogg went after the bowling, but the Zimbabwe fielding was equal to the task.

There were 23 runs needed in the last over. They managed only nine as Marsh hit a six and reached his half-century. Zimbabwe had pulled off a stunning upset, which set the trend for the tournament.

Fletcher was the man of the moment for his unbeaten 69 of 84 balls inclusive of 5 fours, and four wickets for 42 off 11 overs. He exulted: "We knew our only chance was to put pressure through our fielding. We don't have a battery of fast bowlers but by practising fielding hard, we gave full support to our line and length bowlers and the result was our reward."

Pakistan’s magical leg-spinner Abdul Qadir bagged four Kiwi wickets, sending them reeling to 120 for five. But they recovered well to nearly double their score as Qadir finished with four for 21. His efforts were in vain as the Pakistani batting collapsed.

It was the West Indies pacer Winston Davis who came up with the best-ever bowling analysis on World Cup debut. He ran through the Australian line-up, sending them crashing to defeat.

Both the teams came into this match shell-shocked. The reigning champions had been upset by India in the first match the previous day. And a day before that, Zimbabwe had caused a stunning reversal to Australia's aspirations, beating them by 13 runs.

The rain did nothing to calm frayed nerves as the match spilled into two days. The wicket had uneven bounce and the ball seamed about.

West Indies scored 252 for nine in their 60 overs. And at 114 for two, Australia seemed well on course. Then the lean and tall Davis struck.

He removed Graham Yallop and David Hookes in his sixth over. The floodgates had been opened wide.

Davis bowled with a vengeance. In a mere 33 deliveries he demolished the Aussies. In that spell he took 6 wickets for 14 runs.

Australia crashed to 151 all out in 30.3 overs. Davis grabbed the first seven-wicket haul in the World Cup, conceding 51 runs, and overhauling Gary Gilmour’s record of 1975. Only 20 years later did Glenn McGrath and Andy Bichel bag seven wickets in a World Cup match, followed by Tim Southee in 2015.

The lone four-wicket haul on World Cup debut in 1987 was by the Australian pacer Craig McDermott in that one-run triumph over reigning champions India in their opening encounter. After the Indian top-order gave a rousing start, McDermott returned with four for 56 in the nail-biting finish. The 1992 World Cup was the only one without a four-wicket haul or better on debut.

Zimbabwean leg-spinner Paul Strang made his presence felt in 1996 with four for 40. But the West Indies, on a roller-coaster ride in this tournament, won the match easily.

After the elegant Mark Waugh’s hundred, Aussie pacer Damien Fleming took centre-stage at Mumbai. He was very accurate, and made the ball skid and move sideways just enough to beat the bat. It was difficult to score off him, and he could often be penetrative.

This was one such day. Ajay Jadeja found to his chagrin that the ball had shot through and rapped his pads. With the total still on 7, Vinod Kambli had no clue as the cherry moved just a little and crashed into the stumps.

Sachin Tendulkar tried to assume charge but Fleming returned to disturb Mohammad Azharuddin's stumps off the bottom edge. Again the ball had hurried through.

That made it 70 for three. But Fleming was not through yet. He knocked back Anil Kumble's stumps and had Javagal Srinath caught to pick up a rare one-day five-wicket haul. His five for 36 off 9 overs sealed victory for Australia despite a fine 90 by Tendulkar.

It was the usual seam-friendly English conditions in 1999, and their own Allan Mullally took four for 37 in a one-sided opening match against Sri Lanka. Zimbabwean Neil Johnson made a fine entry with four for 42 as they brushed aside Kenya in a tournament on which he left a mark with some brilliant all-round performances.

The hapless Kenyans felt India’s wrath too, with swing bowler Debashish Mohanty capturing four wickets for 56 runs.

The 2003 World Cup largely offered sporting wickets, and after a blitzkrieg with the bat by Andrew Symonds, the canny Australian Ian Harvey took four Pakistan wickets for 58. But the surprise debut came from Austin Codrington representing minnows Canada, as he prised out five Bangladesh batsmen while conceding just 27 runs. 

There was only one four-wicket haul on first appearance in 2007. Sri Lankan pacer Farveez Maharoof knocked over qualifiers Bermuda with four for 23.

After their high in 2003, the Kenyan side were in decline at the 2011 World Cup. They crashed to 69 all out against the New Zealand attack, and medium-pacer Hamish Bennett began his World Cup odyssey with a haul of four for 16.

In a one-sided face-off, South African wrist spinner Imran Tahir brought all his guile and theatre into play, grabbing four West Indies wickets and conceding 41 runs.

English pacer James Tredwell made a late appearance in the tournament. He kept striking through the West Indies line-up, stopping them in their tracks with his bag of four wickets for 48 runs.

Tredwell dismissed the openers Devon Smith and Chris Gayle and then removed Darren Bravo to set the West Indies back at 91 for three. As Andre Russell made a late charge, Tredwell trapped him leg-before for 49.

West Indies were bowled out 225 in 44.4 overs, falling short by 18 runs. 

Pacers reveled in 2015. Traditional rivals England and Australia faced each other on the opening day. Though the hosts piled up 342 for nine, Steven Finn bagged a hat-trick with the wickets of Brad Haddin, Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Johnson off the last three deliveries of his 10th over. He ended with a bag of five for 71.

All-rounder Mitchell Marsh returned the compliment with his own five for 33 as England capsized to 231 all out. Incidentally, Marsh’s father had scored a century on World Cup debut in 1987.

Then in the other explosive encounter, Pakistan’s Sohail Khan prised out five Indian wickets at a cost of 55 runs. But India topped 300 runs, while Pakistan slumped to 224 all out. Mohammed Shami captured four wickets for 35. This was the first of seven consecutive matches in the tournament in which India bowled out their opponents.

Now as all eyes are set on the 12th edition of the mega event in 2019, it remains to be seen if any bowler will mark his entry with a rich haul of wickets.     

List of four wickets and above hauls on World Cup debut:

Bernard Julien, 4 for 20, West Indies v Sri Lanka, Manchester, 1975   

Dennis Lillee, 5 for 34, Australia v Pakistan, Leeds, 1975

Gary Gilmour, 6 for 14, Australia v England, Leeds, 1975

Michael Holding, 4 for 33, West Indies v India, Birmingham, 1979   

Duncan Fletcher, 4 for 42, Zimbabwe v Australia, Nottingham, 1983

Abdul Qadir, 4 for 21, Pakistan v New Zealand, Birmingham, 1983   

Winston Davis, 7 for 51, West Indies v Australia, Leeds, 1983

Craig McDermott, 4 for 56, Australia v India, Madras, 1987   

Paul Strang, 4 for 40, Zimbabwe v West Indies, Hyderabad (Ind), 1996

Damien Fleming, 5 for 36, Australia v India, Mumbai, 1996

Allan Mullally, 4 for 37, England v Sri Lanka, Lord’s, 1999  

Neil Johnson, 4 for 42, Zimbabwe v Kenya, Taunton, 1999    

Debashish Mohanty, 4 for 56, India v Kenya, Bristol, 1999   

Ian Harvey, 4 for 58, Australia v Pakistan, Johannesburg, 2003   

Austin Codrington, 5 for 27, Canada v Bangladesh, Durban, 2003

Farveez Maharoof, 4 for 23, Sri Lanka v Bermuda, Port of Spain, 2007   

Hamish Bennett, 4 for 16, New Zealand v Kenya, Chennai, 2011

Imran Tahir, 4 for 41, South Africa v West Indies, New Delhi, 2011

James Tredwell, 4 for 48, England v West Indies, Chennai, 2011

Steven Finn, 5 for 71, England v Australia, Melbourne, 2015

Mitchell Marsh, 5 for 33, Australia v England, Melbourne, 2015

Sohail Khan, 5 for 55, Pakistan v India, Adelaide, 2015

Mohammed Shami, 4 for 35, India v Pakistan, Adelaide, 2015

Also read - Best batting average world cup

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Published 29 May 2019, 05:53 IST
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