Trent Boult (left) and Mitchell Starc finished with 22 wickets apiece at the top of the bowlers list in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 © Getty Images
Trent Boult (left) and Mitchell Starc finished with 22 wickets apiece at the top of the bowlers list in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 © Getty Images


ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 has been the best one for batsmen, but the best bowlers have finished the tournament with outstanding numbers as well. In fact, the teams with the strongest bowling attacks made it to the top four. Abhishek Mukherjee lists the top 10 spells by in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.

Mitchell Starc and Trent Boult finished with 22 apiece. Four other men —Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Morne Morkel, and Jerome Taylor — claimed 17 or more wickets, and all of them averaged below 20 with the ball. In fact, barring Taylor, everyone averaged below 18 and finished with economy rates below five an over. Top 10 bowlers in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015

Spinners had a tougher time, but the likes of Daniel Vettori, Imran Tahir, Ravichandran Ashwin, and even part-timers like Tillakaratne Dilshan and Chris Gayle had a good time. The balance has never between as tilted towards the bat: runs were scored at 5.65 an over (5.03 was the previous record); 300s were scored with ease; and there were even multiple 400s. Top 10 batsmen in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015

Let us, then, look at the best bowling spells in the tournament.

10. Mohammed Shami 9-1-35-4 vs Pakistan at Adelaide Oval

The spell that triggered it all for India: though they piled up a round 300, Pakistan were always a dangerous opposition, especially on a flat track. Enter Shami to take out Younis Khan with a lethal bouncer. He gave Pakistanis a torrid time thereafter before he was taken away. His first spell read 5-0-17-1.

Pakistan fought back, and with 152 needed from 96 balls, things did not look impossible for them in the Twenty20 era. Shahid Afridi then holed out to cover (Virat Kohli took an excellent catch), and three balls later Wahab Riaz was caught behind. Misbah-ul-Haq had one last lunge but could only hole out to Ajinkya Rahane at mid-on.

9. Tendai Chatara 10-2-35-3 vs Pakistan at The Gabba

Chatara’s lion-hearted performance could not pull off a victory, but he certainly rocked Pakistan with his first spell. He bounced out Nasir Jamshed with his sixth ball, and produced a near-unplayable delivery: it angled in, held its line, and took Ahmed Shehzad’s edge. He made the new ball wobble around off a perfect length, and thanks to Chatara, Tinashe Panyangara, and Tawanda Mupariwa, Pakistan crawled to 14 for 2 from 10 overs. Top 10 fielders in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015

He was taken off after a spell of 5-2-8-2, and did not relent when he was brought back. Pakistan managed to reach 200, but Chatara struck again, this time removing Misbah. He also had Wahab caught by Stuart Matsikenyeri at deep square-leg; the latter scored 54, which turned out to be crucial.

8. Mohammad Irfan 10-2-30-4 vs Zimbabwe at The Gabba

Defending 236 is never an easy ask, but if you have a 7’1” giant generating ominous bounce off a length it is not too difficult either. Chamu Chibhabha tried to leave a short one, but the ball grew on him and found the edge, while Sikandar Raza fell to a lifter that took his edge and flew to slip. Top 10 wicketkeepers in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015

There was more to be done: the wicket of the well-set Hamilton Masakadza might be a result of irresponsible batting, but Solomon Mire faced an unplayable delivery: it climbed up him, found the edge, and thudded into the gloves of Umar Akmal.

7. Trent Boult 10-3-27-5 vs Australia at Eden Park

Aaron Finch and David Warner got away to a good start after Michael Clarke chose to bat under overcast conditions. Finch fell early, but Warner and Shane Watson took the score to 80 for one in the 13th over. ICC Cricket World Cup 2015: Complete Coverage

Trent Boult joined the fray with one that was leaving Glenn Maxwell; the batsman tried to place it to off, had an inside edge, and his off-stump was pegged back. Two balls later, Mitchell Marsh chopped one on to his stumps as well. Michael Clarke held fort for a while before holing out to short cover. Mitchell Johnson hit one to cover. And Mitchell Starc did not stand a chance against one that angled in to him, pitched on line, and held its line to knock down the middle-stump.

Boult’s first spell read 5-0-24-0. The second spell read 5-3-3-5.

6. Tim Southee 9-0-33-7 vs England at Wellington

Southee’s figures were the best in the tournament, but the World Cup had seen better spells. Ian Bell had no clue to one that pitched outside off and jagged back in. Moeen Ali responded with three consecutive boundaries but fell prey to the age-old one-two trick: Southee softened him with bouncers before pitching one up; Moeen was found on the back-foot, and was bowled. Read: Top 10 innings in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015

James Taylor offered no footwork and was bowled through the gate; Jos Buttler poked at one away from the body and edged; Chris Woakes faced a peach that landed on line and moved enough to beat bat and hit off; Stuart Broad gave away his wicket with a lazy shot to mid-off; and Steven Finn edged one to slip. It was top-quality swing bowling — albeit against some below-par batting.

5. Rubel Hossain 9.3-0-53-4 vs England at Adelaide Oval

England had to chase 276, and though they had the versatile Shakib Al Hasan, the experienced Mashrafe Mortaza, and the exciting Taskin Ahmed, the onus fell on Rubel Hossain. England had reached 121 for two when Rubel struck his first double-blow: a well-set Bell edged one that came faster than he expected, and three balls later he had Eoin Morgan caught at deep fine-leg. Read: New Zealand marks out of 10

A partnership between Buttler and Woakes followed, but with 16 needed from 12 the match could have gone to either side. Rubel bowled straight and fast, hit timber twice in three balls, and Bangladesh were in the top eight.

4. Jerome Taylor 7-1-15-3 vs Pakistan at Christchurch

Pakistan had a fair chance after West Indies scored 310, but Taylor’s first two overs ended their hopes. Jamshed faced a short one second ball and holed out to mid-wicket; coming from the side of the crease four balls later Taylor landed one on line; the ball straightened and took Shehzad’s edge, and that was that. Read: Australia marks out of 10

But Taylor was not done: he unleashed a bouncer that Haris Sohail tried to cut from too close to his body, and was caught at backward point. Pakistan were reduced to 1/3; Taylor’s figures read 2-1-1-3. West Indies won by 150 runs.

3. Wahab Riaz 9-0-54-2 vs Australia at Adelaide Oval

The figures do not tell the story. In fact, Wahab himself had better figures in four matches in the World Cup. The first spell against Australia, especially the cannonballs he hurled at Watson during would have troubled champions across eras. Wahab was fast, hostile, relentless, and uncompromising. Read: Petition against ICC for 10-team ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

Warner was caught at deep third-man off Wahab’s third ball. Clarke could only fend one to forward short-leg. Wahab was breathing fire; his figures read 1.4-0-11-2; and he seemed ready for several more. Steve Smith escaped with a single, but the ball fizzed past Watson’s helmet, gloves, shoulder; he bounced at Watson, and Rahat Ali dropped a sitter at long-leg; a snorter flew off Watson’s glove and fell safely; one thudded on his thigh-pad; Watson somehow survived a yorker.

Maxwell was dropped by Sohail Khan at third-man. That was perhaps the final nail on the coffin: Wahab ran out of steam after that.

2. Mitchell Starc 9-0-28-6 vs New Zealand at Eden Park

Australia were bowled out for 151. Brendon McCullum biffed his way to a 24-ball 50. At 78 for one in the eighth over the match seemed as good as over — though Starc thought otherwise. He had Martin Guptill caught at mid-off, and once McCullum fell he stormed back into action.

Ross Taylor went for a wild shot across the line and was bowled and the next ball shot back to hit Grant Elliott’s middle-stump, but with Kane Williamson and Corey Anderson going strong, New Zealand were left to score a mere 21. Then Maxwell claimed Anderson, and Starc unleashed an unplayable bouncer that Luke Ronchi could not leave; the ball brushed his gloves and went to Brad Haddin.

Pat Cummins removed Vettori, and with six to win, he ran through Adam Milne’s defence. The next ball was the perfect yorker, to which Southee had no answer. Boult kept his cool amidst the insanity before Williamson smashed a six to settle the match.

1. Imran Tahir 8.2-0-26-4 vs Sri Lanka at SCG

The only spell by a spinner on the list is also the best in the tournament. With 15 wickets at 22 and an economy rate of 4.23 Tahir, along with Vettori, was the pick of the spinners. He had a five-wicket haul against West Indies, but his real performance came in the quarter-final.

South Africa had never won a World Cup knockout match before 2015. Sri Lankans have traditionally been outstanding players of spin. Sri Lanka batted first on a flat track. An in-form Kumar Sangakkara was at the crease and Lahiru Thirimanne looked in touch. Sri Lanka reached 69 for two from 18 overs. It was a crucial phase of the match. Tahir’s two overs had gone for 11.

Tahir tossed one up to Thirimanne; he was hurried into the shot, was beaten in flight, and could not reach the pitch of the ball. The stroke was too early, and the ball looped back to Tahir. Two overs later he bowled one that shot through after pitching, and Mahela Jayawardene, no less, played feebly to short mid-wicket.

Thisara Perera tried to cut but did not pick up the slider; the ball hurried on to him, took the edge, bounced off Quinton de Kock’s gloves, and flew to first slip. Tahir rounded things off by having Lasith Malinga caught at cover. Sri Lanka could not survive the spell of four for 15 from 38 balls; they were bundled out for 133 and lost by nine wickets.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)