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Tales from World Cup semis: Wahab Riaz's fifer, the South African referendum and Gary Gilmour's dazzling entry

5.39K   //    24 Mar 2015, 01:11 IST
1999 World Cup semi-final: Lance Klusener and Allan Donald run as Steve Waugh gestures

The World Cup semis are upon us – that time of cricket’s showpiece tournament which produces the most well-known cricket anecdotes to last the years. History only ever remembered the victor though – Lance Klusener running back to the pavilion is the defining moment of the ‘99 World Cup only in the more obscure annals of the game.

Here are recountings of some fascinating moments from World Cup semi-finals over the years – some trivia, some moments of intrigue, some heroic efforts in losing causes and some sights the likes of which may never be seen in cricket again:

Wahab Riaz bags fifer in losing cause

Pakistan medium-pacer Wahab Riaz brought out his career best performance against India in the 2011 World Cup semi-final but that wasn’t enough. The first-change left-arm seamer not only gave his team the first breakthrough by removing dangerous opener Virender Sehwag but also dismissed the in-form Yuvraj Singh for a first ball duck to turn the tide in favour of Pakistan.

Riaz went on to finish his ten overs capturing 5 wickets for 46 and thus became the fifth Pakistani bowler to bag five wickets in an innings in the World Cup after Shahid Afridi (twice), Wasim Akram, Saqlain Mushtaq and Abdul Qadir.

His five-wicket haul was also the second in an India–Pakistan World Cup game after Venkatesh Prasad’s 5 for 27 at Manchester in 1999.

Magnificient McGrath chokes Proteas

Playing a do-or-die semi-final of his farewell tournament in 2007, veteran Glenn McGrath showed that he still had plenty of firepower in him to dismantle the mighty South Africans in one of the fiercest opening spells one would ever get to see.

His 3 for 14 early in the innings reduced the Proteas to 27 for 5 and although the seamer didn’t add any more wickets to his tally, his 3 for 18 from 8 overs helped his team bowl out the South Africans for a paltry 149—the lowest ever World Cup score by the African stalwarts.

McGrath’s three-wicket haul lifted his World Cup tally to a record twenty-five, surpassing Chaminda Vaas’s 2003-mark of twenty-three. The Aussies eventually won the game by seven wickets to enter the World Cup final for the fourth time, a famous record.

Chaminda Vaas returns home on a high

Sri Lankan bowling spearhead Chaminda Vaas captured 3 for 34 against Australia to become the highest wicket taker of the 2003 World Cup. The three dismissals also increased Vaas’s overall tally to a record 23.

This was the new record for the most number of wickets, claimed by a bowler in a single World Cup, bettering the previous tally of 20 by Geoff Allott and Shane Warne in 1999 – a record to be broken by Mcgrath in the next edition.

Geoff Allott goes wicket-less

After his consistent bowling and amazing run with the ball throughout 1999 World Cup, Kiwi pacer Geoff Allott failed to bag a single wicket in the semi-final against Pakistan. With Saeed Anwar firing on all cylinders, the left-arm seamer got stuck at his record tally of 20 wickets, this being the highest wickets taken by any bowler in the seventh edition of the World Cup.

Keith Arthurton’s nightmarish two

When West Indies batsman Keith Arthurton was dismissed for a duck in the 1996 World Cup semi-final against Australia, his unbelievably poor World Cup show came to an end.

The left-hander began his Wills World Cup campaign with a single run against Zimbabwe, followed by a duck against Kenya, before scoring another duck against Australia (in the group league game) and a score of 1 in the subsequent game against South Africa. His third duck in 5 games completed the series of 1, 0, 0, 1 and 0 to keep his overall tally to 2 runs from five games.

This made him the second players after Arjuna Ranatunga (in 1983) to score 3 ducks in a single World Cup, apart from emulating Kris Srikkanth’s World Cup record of 4 ducks. His tournament average was a pathetic 0.40 and the strike rate was an equally horrible 9.52. Arthurton faced a total of twenty-one deliveries in the tournament to record one of the worst performances in World Cup history.

Uncertainty before semi-final

Even after qualifying for the historic 1992 World Cup semi-final against England, tournament debutant South Africa were more worried about the result of the referendum on ending apartheid scheduled for 17 March—four days before the semi-final.

A negative referendum could have resulted in the team’s withdrawal ahead of the much-anticipated semi-final on 22 March.

However, much to the relief of the Proteas players, the erstwhile President F.W. de Klerk’s referendum fetched 68.7 per cent in favour of political reform in the country, ensuring the cricket team’s continuing participation in the World Cup.

Two wicketkeepers in Indian playing XI

Incidentally, India fielded two wicketkeepers in the high-voltage 1987 World Cup semi-final against England. With Dilip Vengsarkar being ruled out of the game with an upset stomach, India fielded wicketkeeper-batsman and local lad Chandrakant Pandit as a batsman since first-choice keeper Kiran More was already in the side.

With More standing behind the stumps, Pandit played as an outfielder and scored 24 off 30.

Fifty-maker Fowler falters 

England were heavily banking on the superb form of opener Graeme Fowler throughout the tournament but in the crucial semi-final of the 1983 World Cup against India, the left-hander failed to make his fifth consecutive half-century of the tournament.

In England’s previous four matches in the tournament, ‘Foxy’ Fowler’s consistently impressive series of scores were 78 not out, 69, 69 and 81 not out. His incredible streak of four consecutive fifties was broken as he was dismissed for 33 at Old Trafford. The competition’s third highest scorer’s—360 runs—tournament average was however an enviable 72.00.

Ironically, these were the only half-centuries in the southpaw’s entire ODI career as he neither hit a fifty in the only one-day game of his career he played before the World Cup nor was he able to score any fifty in other limited overs games post the World Cup.

The gifted opener’s Test career had a dramatic twist as he was dropped from the team once and for all just one Test, after scoring a magnificent 201 against India at Chennai in 1985. The score in his last innings was a well-made 69 against the same opponents at Kanpur.

Prelude to Final

In the 1979 World Cup semi final against Pakistan, Caribbean legend Viv Richards showed a glimpse of what was in store in the World Cup final.

He not only played a cameo – 42 runs – but also dismantled the Pakistan lower order with his intelligent off breaks. Playing second fiddle to a fiery Colin Croft, Richards bagged the key wickets of Mudassar Nazar, skipper Asif Iqbal and Imran Khan to ensure his team’s safe passage to the second successive World Cup final.

Gilmour’s glorious entry

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Gary Gilmour proved that the saying is true when he stormed into the 1975 World Cup with a dream spell. The left-arm medium pacer had just played two international matches before and had three wickets under his belt as he made his World Cup debut in the crunch semi-final tie against hosts England.

Gilmour attacked from the word go and dismantled the English top order like a pack of cards. Exploiting the juicy conditions at Headingley, the Aussie pacer merrily swung and mercilessly bounced to bag each of the first six English wickets. England were bundled out for a paltry 93 in just 36.2 overs as Gilmour’s 12 consecutive overs fetched 6 maidens, 6 wickets and conceded just 14 runs.

But that was not all he did in the do-or-die World Cup semi-final – coming at a time when his team was struggling at 39 for 6, Gilmour bailed out the Aussies to play a match-winning run-a-ball 28 not out to script a 55-run unbeaten partnership for the 7th wicket with Doug Walters.

Suvam Pal is the author of HarperCollins Book of World Cup Trivia, which features more such lesser-known facts.

You can get the book here:

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