Wahab Riaz's spell to Shane Watson in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 quarter-final between Australia and Pakistan happens to be one of the most memorable of all time © Getty Images
Wahab Riaz’s spell to Shane Watson in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 quarter-final between Australia and Pakistan happens to be one of the most memorable of all time © Getty Images

The time has come for us to bid goodbye to what has been another eventful year in cricket. 2015 was the year that witnessed the 11th edition of quadrennial ICC Cricket World Cup taking place, along with a host of other events. Cricket has given us a number of memorable matches, ones that will find special place in the annals of the sport. Despite the fact that batsmen have found favour due to the change in ICC laws, as well as the playing conditions in recent times, it did not prevent the bowlers from recording some memorable spells throughout the year. Amit Banerjee lists — chronologically — 10 of the best spells from all the ne-Day Internationals (ODIs) matches to have taken place this year, keeping in mind the impact the spell had on the match. Yearender 2015: Top 10 ODI bowlers

1. Steven Finn (5 for 33 vs India, Brisbane, January 20):  India were having a torrid time in their 2014-15 tour of Australia, losing the Test series 0-2. They did not get off to an ideal start in the ODI triangular series either, in which England joined Australians and Indians, with MS Dhoni and co. suffering a four-wicket loss to the hosts in their first game.

India were without opener Rohit Sharma, who had scored a century in the previous game, with Ambati Rayudu coming in his place. While some may present Rohit’s absence as the main cause for India’s dramatic collapse after electing to bat, the fact remains that the duo of Finn and James Anderson caused all the mayhem on a bouncy Gabba track.

Finn’s brilliant spell early in the Indian innings ran through their top-order, sending Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, and Ambati Rayudu back to the pavilion with India collapsing to 67 for 5. The lanky pacer added the prized wicket of Dhoni, finishing with career-best figures of 5 for 33. While Anderson may have helped in India’s demolition with four wickets of his own in a more economical spell, it was Finn’s superb early spell that set the motion for the rest of the game.

2. Tim Southee (7 for 33 vs England, Wellington, February 20): If there was a match that summed England’s performance in the World Cup up in a nutshell, it was their group game against New Zealand in Wellington. At the helm of the destruction of the English batting order was Southee, growing in stature as a leading pacer in the build-up to the tournament. Opting to bat after winning toss, the English opening duo of Ian Bell and Moeen Ali did not survive for long against Southee’s yorkers.

While it was the initial spell that set the tone for the rest of the match, it was Southee’s second spell — during which he would take five wickets — that skittled England out for a paltry 123. England seemed to have recovered at 104 for 3 before Daniel Vettori removed skipper Eoin Morgan, and Southee rattled James Taylor’s off-stump a terrific delivery. It all went south for England thereafter, with Brendon McCullum’s hard-hitting wrapping things up in a jiffy.

3. Trent Boult (5 for 27 vs Australia, Auckland, February 28): The first of the two clashes between the co-hosts will go down as one of the most classic finishes in World Cup history, with the game going down to the wire and the match witnessing two extraordinary spells. Australia won the toss and opted to bat in the match that officially was the one-off contest for the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy 2015. Southee got rid of Aaron Finch early in the innings. At 80 for 1, Australia seemed to have recovered well and were on their way to a big total when Vettori and Southee took a wicket each to push them on the back-foot. And then came the ‘Thunder-Boult’.

It started with Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh dragging the ball onto their stumps in a space of a couple of deliveries. Michael Clarke was next to depart, serving Kane Williamson a simple one at cover. Mitchell Johnson came down the track, and mishit the delivery completely to be caught by Williamson at the same position. Mitchell Starc missed the line of a full-length delivery completely to get his middle stump rattled. From 95 for 4, Australia were reduced to 106 for 9 thanks to a terrific spell by Boult.

The Aussies were bowled out for 151, with expectations of the chase being an easy one understandable at that stage. Starc, however, had plans of his own, and would bowl an equally terrific spell, the details of which are mentioned in the following point.

4. Mitchell Starc (6 for 28 vs New Zealand, Auckland, February 28): Enter the New Zealand opening pair of Martin Guptill and skipper McCullum; their target being a modest 152. It was an all-Baz show for the first half as he went about massacring the Australian attack with strokes all over the park. Starc managed to get rid of Guptill early in the innings, but that barely made any difference whatsoever as McCullum reached his half-century in a little over 20 deliveries. New Zealand were headed for a thumping victory, or so it seemed.

McCullum copped a nasty injury to his left arm courtesy a snorter from Johnson, getting dismissed shortly afterwards. Starc managed to uproot Ross Taylor’s off-stump off the first delivery of the ninth over, before piercing through Grant Elliott’s defences to hit his middle-stump. New Zealand were still in the game till that point.

The real problem for New Zealand began when Corey Anderson was dismissed by Maxwell. Luke Ronchi got some glove to a bouncer from Starc a few deliveries later, giving the left-arm pacer his fourth wicket. Pat Cummins managed to remove Vettori before Starc returned one final time in the match, castling both Adam Milne and Southee with almost unplayable yorkers, ones that would have penetrated the defences of the best of batsmen, let alone tail-enders.

Starc almost single-handedly won the game for Australia till that point, and could have completed the task had he got rid of Boult in a similar fashion. That was not to be however, as Williamson finished things off with a six over long-on, bringing an end to one of the greatest matches in ODI history. Yearender 2015: Top 10 ODI Batsmen in 2015

5. Wahab Riaz (2 for 54 vs Australia, Adelaide, March 20): Few spells have seen such intensity in the recent years as Wahab’s to Shane Watson in the quarter-final of the World Cup did. The Pakistan pace spearhead may have had several memorable moments in the past, including the full toss that bowled Yuvraj Singh for a golden duck in the 2011 World Cup semi-final. This, however, will stand out from the rest, unless of course he has something more extraordinary in store in the future.

Pakistan were struggling for the majority in the World Cup, suffering massive defeats to India and West Indies in the group stage. They managed to upset South Africa to their credit. Fast-forward to the quarter-final: the Pakistani batting line-up imploded yet again to get bowled out for 213. In order to set up a second consecutive World Cup semi-final date with India, they needed a good spell from their frontline bowlers, one that would give them early wickets.

Wahab did stand up to the task, an in a rather ferocious way. The barrage of short balls began at the start of the ninth over, with David Warner getting caught at third-man by Rahat Ali while attempting an upper-cut. Clarke was next to depart, getting caught at silly mid-on after while trying to tackle a short-pitched one. The real deal — the Watson vs Wahab saga — began right after Clarke’s dismissal, with Wahab sending down one bouncer after another, each of which was accompanied by the typical aggressive fast-bowler’s murderous stare.

The pressure on the Australians only increased from that point onwards, with Wahab clapping sarcastically and even blowing kisses at Watson in some of the bouncers thereafter. Watson was barely able the handle the heat for that period of time. After getting tested Wahab in the 13th and 15th overs, Watson caved in and went in for a hook in the first ball of the 17th over. Except, the ball headed straight towards Rahat at deep fine-leg, where the fielder did a Herschelle Gibbs and made a mess of the catch.

Pakistan could have had the match in their hands had Rahat collected the catch, which would have reduced Australia to 74 for 4. Fate however, had other plans, as Watson went on to guide Australia home by six wickets with an unbeaten 64. The spell however, will not be forgotten by both parties for a very long time.

6. Mustafizur Rahman (6 for 43 vs India, Dhaka, June 21): Bangladesh were on a roll right from the World Cup, where they qualified for the knock-out stage for the first time ever, before ‘Banglawashing’ Pakistan 3-0 in an ODI series at home. India were next on the list, and the Bangladeshis wanted revenge for being ‘cheated’ in the quarter-final of the World Cup by their immediate neighbours.

After the rain-affected one-off Test that ended in a tame draw, Mustafizur got off to a dream start in the 50-over format by taking 5 for 50 on debut match, also the first ODI of the series. India fell short of Bangladesh’s imposing total of 307 by 79 runs, giving the hosts a 1-0 lead. Mustafizur foxed the Indian batsmen with his off-cutters, which would soon become his trademark.

The second game was a similar story, although Mustafizur bowled an even better spell in the following game. The 19-year-old got rid of Rohit for a duck off the second ball of the innings, and returned later in the innings to break the 53-run partnership between Raina and Dhoni, getting rid of both within a space of a few deliveries.

There was no stopping him from that point onwards, as Mustafizur got rid of Akshar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in quick succession thereafter, finishing with figures of 6 for 43 to top his debut spell. India were bowled out for a lowly 200 and Bangladesh had a few hurdles in claiming clinching their second major bilateral series of the year. To say that Mustafizur had arrived in ODI cricket with a bang would be a bit of an understatement here.

7. Kagiso Rabada (6 for 16 vs Bangladesh, Dhaka, July 10): Having conquered Indians and Pakistanis, Bangladeshis had South Africa next in their menu. The Proteas, however, proved too strong for the hosts in the Twenty20 International (T20I) series, defeating them 2-0, making the build-up to the ODI series all the more exciting.

Rabada made his debut in the first match of the three-ODI series, having played his first 20-over international game against Australia in November the previous year. Rabada was an exciting future prospect for the Proteas, and would be closely monitored in this series. The 20-year-old pacer repaid the selectors’ faith in full dividends after his haul of 6 for 16 on ODI debut, with the first three coming off a hat-trick. Rabada got rid of the dangerous Tamim Iqbal with a yorker, sending the off-stump cartwheeling multiple times. Liton Das flicked the second delivery towards Farhaan Behardien towards the midwicket while Mahmudullah was trapped lbw by a half-volley.

It was a one-way street for the rest of the match as Rabada got rid of Soumya Sarkar a few overs later, before returning for his second spell later in the innings later to get rid of the tail-enders. Rabada’s haul turned out to be the best by a bowler on ODI debut, and better Allan Donald’s 5 for 29 against India in 1991 for the South African record.

8. Yasir Shah (4 for 29 vs Sri Lanka, Premadasa, July 19): Pakistan travelled to Sri Lanka after being whitewashed in Bangladesh and hosting Zimbabwe in a historic bilateral ODI and T20I series on home soil (not their adopted home of the UAE). Pakistan clinched the Test series 2-1, winning the third Test by 7 wickets. Yasir stood out in the Tests, recording 24 wickets from 3 matches at 19.3 and an economy of 2.6. He was 10 wickets ahead of the next best in the list, with his 7 for 76 in the second innings of the first Test securing a comfortable 10-wicket win for the side.

Yasir was having a dull year in ODIs until then, and it was only in the third one-dayer of the series when the Lionel Messi-lookalike finally struck form in the 50-over format. Chasing an uphill 317, Sri Lanka were off to a shaky start with Anwar Ali sending both openers back to the pavilion by the eighth over. Sri Lanka’s downfall in the match however, began after Yasir beat Upul Tharanga with a sharp bounce for the batsman to miss the ball and get stumped.

Skipper Angelo Mathews was next in the list, getting a leading edge after coming down the track to get caught at long-off. Yasir took two more wickets later in the innings to take his overall figures of 4 for 29 from 10 overs. However, his tight line barely let the hosts score on any occasion, and that played a major role in stepping the pressure up on the Sri Lankans, and causing them to concede a 1-2 series lead.

9. Kagiso Rabada (2 for 58 vs India, Kanpur, October 11): South Africa toured India towards the end of September with the major burden of winning their first-ever limited-overs series in the country. They began their 72-day tour of the cricket-crazy nation with a 2-0 thrashing of the hosts in the T20I leg of the tour, with the rivalry shifting to the five-match ODI series thereafter.

Rabada, who had recorded 6 for 16 on debut against Bangladesh in similar conditions earlier the year, had become something of a sensation by then and was naturally carrying a lot of expectations. In the end, Rabada would shine in the match despite bowling alongside the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

AB de Villiers smashed his 21st ODI ton, the first of the three he would in the series, to guide South Africa to 303 for 5 much to the cheer of the local crowd. India, in reply, were cruising for the most part, with a flamboyant Rohit bringing up his ton and Rahane contributing 60 useful runs to the total. At 269 for 3, with Rohit batting on 150, a 1-0 series lead looked all but set for the hosts.

That was when Rohit’s dismissal by Imran Tahir turned things around, though Dhoni’s presence at the crease remained a source of assurance for the hosts. Rabada was handed the ball by skipper de Villiers for the last over, in which India needed 11. The experienced Rabada was up against one of the greatest ODI finishers of all time. Rabada may have been staring at the biggest challenge of his career.

Dhoni managed to connect well in the first ball to get a couple of runs, courtesy a fumble by Behardien in the deep. Rabada’s brilliant line and length cramped Dhoni and Stuart Binny for room in the next two deliveries, with the two batsmen exchanging singles. With the pressure levels rising mercurially, ‘Captain Cool’ desperately swung his bat with the intent of clearing the boundary ropes, getting a top-edge another short-pitched ball to send the ball high in the air, with Rabada collecting an easy return catch. The next ball was a near replay, only Binny got caught by Amla who ran forward from square-leg.

The crowd fell silent as Rabada managed to seal the game in those two magical deliveries, showcasing his ability as a brilliant death bowler in that crunch over. Bhuvneshwar Kumar could only get a single off the next ball as South Africa completed a miraculous 5-run win.

10. Matt Henry (4 for 49 vs Sri Lanka, Christchurch, December 26): A match that showed how vulnerable the Sri Lankans were in New Zealand despite the Black Caps missing out on their key pacers in Boult and Southee. The year had seen New Zealand pacers (especially the new-ball pair) wreak havoc with ball on home soil, and it was only fitting for Henry to join that trend right at the end of the year. Sri Lanka were looking for redemption after getting whitewashed 0-2 in the Test series for the second time in the year, and an improved performance in the five- ODI series would have been their aim.

If the Lankans were below-par in the Tests, they were made to look like amateurs in the first ODI (and schoolboys in the second). Opener Danushka Gunathilaka was dismissed for 8 by Adam Milne before Henry single-handedly ran through the top-order, taking the next 4 wickets to reduce Sri Lanka to 27 for 5 in the 10th over. Henry managed to cramp the batsmen for room on most occasions, and got Lahiru Thirimanne out lbw with a half-volley that angled into the batsman.

While Milinda Siriwardana and Nuwan Kulasekara stitched a 98-run seventh-wicket stand to guide the Sri Lankans to a respectable 188, Henry’s early burst had ensured the Black Caps managed to keep them below 200, the target of which would have been a cake walk given the form their top-order was in. Yearender 2015: Top 10 most thrilling ODIs

(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, travelling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)