Dennis Lillee, Saqlain Mushtaq, Curtly Ambrose © Getty Images
Dennis Lillee, Saqlain Mushtaq, Curtly Ambrose © Getty Images


By Tim Holt


Tim Holt, who has been following the game since the 1950’s, recalls some great bowling feats over the years


Dennis Lillee – Australia vs West Indies, MCG, 1981-82


I could have cited 50 other Dennis Lillee classics, but this was quite exceptional. Australia had been rolled over for 198 earlier in the day by the mighty West Indies, thanks largely to Michael Holding’s five-for. The home team needed to hit back strongly and early.


Hit back they did, by getting three quick wickets – Faoud Bacchus, Desmond Haynes and nightwatchman Colin Croft – with just six runs on the board. But the wicket that the Aussies most wanted was that of Viv Richards – without a shadow of a doubt the best batsmen in the world of the time. Lillee bowled the great man off the last ball of the day to send the MCG into raptures. West Indies were reduced to ten for four – Lillee getting three of the four wickets!


The West Indies went on to take a three-run first innings lead, but Lillee finished the innings with seven for 83.


Curtly Ambrose – West Indies vs Australia, Perth, 1993


Curtly Ambrose was pretty close to fast bowling perfection with his nagging line, length and array of deliveries bowled at decent pace that had the best batsmen struggling.


Ambrose bowled one of the most devastating spells ever in Test cricket, capturing seven wickets for just one run. Six of the victims were caught in the arc behind as Australia were all out for 119 all out after being a healthy 85 for two! And this was against a strong Australia side that included the likes of the David Boon, Justin Langer, Allan Border, Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Damien Martyn and Ian Healy.


Bhagwat Chandrasekar – India vs England, The Oval, 1971


With his fastish leg-spin and googlies, Chandra could be lethal on his day. This was one such day at the Oval in 1971, with the 3-Test series tied at 0-0.


England had taken a handy 71-run lead on the first innings and were 23 for no loss in the second innings when the game took a dramatic turn. The man engineering the turnaround was Chandra, who took six wickets for 38 runs to bundle out England for 101 runs.


India lost six wickets but reached the target of 173 runs – India’s first series win over England in England, to mark a watershed year in Indian cricket.


Bob Willis – England vs Australia, Leeds, 1981


Bob Willis, for me, is the ultimate contradiction. As a commentator he is soft spoken with gentle manners. But as a bowler on the field, he was one of the fieriest pacers in the game’s history.


The match itself is known as known as Botham’s Test for the all-rounder’s effort in helping England comeback to life when the coffin was all but buried by Australia. England were dismissed for 174 in the first innings and, following on 227 behind, were 135 for seven, still 92 behind and just the fast bowlers – Graham Dilley, Chris Old and Bob Willis – to support Botham. But Dilley (56) helped Botham add 117 for the eighth wicket. Then Old helped add 67 for the ninth wicket and Willis 37 for the last wicket.


Australia now needed 130 for victory were coasting along at 56 for one when Willis came up with one of the most inspired spells in Test cricket to shoot out Australia for 111. Willis finished with 8 for 43 in 15.1 overs.


Rumesh Ratnayake – Sri Lanka – vs Australia, Hobart, 1989


I will never forget this bowling exhibition. In the lead-up to the Test, the talk was that  Australia would demolish Sri Lanka in three days. They were made to eat their words by a memorable spell from Ratnayake, who not only got six for 66 with swing and fire, but also felled David Boon with a beauty of a bouncer. Of course, Ratnayake was so shaken up by the hurt he caused to the batsman that he burst into tears!


This arguably was one of the finest bowling efforts during the time of Sri Lanka’s infancy in the game.


Richard Hadlee – New Zealand vs Australia, Gabba, 1985


The great Richard Hadlee was one of the most skillful bowlers ever in the game. The amount he did off the pitch was truly remarkable and made him an astounding wicket-taking bowler.


In this Test against the arch-enemy, he tormented all the Australian batsmen with his lethal leg-cutters and equally deadly off-cutters.


Hadlee had got the first nine wickets and was on the verge of equaling Jim Laker’s feat of taking all ten in the innings. But, ironically, he deprived himself of the feat by taking a catch of Geoff Lawson to end the Australian innings. The bowler was debutant Vaughan Brown and the wicket of Lawson was the only wicket he took in Test cricket!


Hadlee finished with 23.4-4-52-9. He took six for 71 in the second innings to finish with match haul of 15 wickets. By the way, he also scored 54 off 45 balls coming in at No 8! What an all-rounder!


Hugh Tayfield – South Africa vs England, Johannesburg, 1957


England was indeed the power team of the 1950’s with some of the legendary names in the history of cricket. South Africa hadn’t beaten England in 26 years in South Africa and now, in the Jo’burg Test, Hugh Tayfield authored a sensational script to help his team win by 17 runs. The victory here and the one that followed at Port Elizabeth helped South Africa end the series at 2-2.


Tayfield was brilliant on the last day of the Jo’burg Test. Chasing 231 for victory the English were coasting to victory at 147 for two when Tayfield stepped in. Getting the English batting generals in Denis Compton, Colin Cowdrey and Peter May in a 35-over (8-ball overs, mind you) spell. That he never wavered with his laser-like accuracy, flight and enough deviation with copious spin was the catalyst for a remarkable victory. Tayfield finished with 37-11-113-9.


One of my first memories of cricket!


Saqlain Mushtaq – Pakistan vs India, Chennai, 1999


Any spinner who gets 10 wickets in a Test against India is an exceptional has to be great performer.


This performances by Saqlain came in pressure-cooker atmosphere – Pakistan’s first clash with India in nine years. Add to that the theatre; the match had to be transferred from Delhi to Chennai amid security concerns.


It’s under these circumstances that the Pakistani off-spinner not only got five wickets in the 1st innings, but in a gripping finale got the crucial wicket of Sachin Tendulkar for 136 when India were on the verge of victory. That wicket helped Pakistan duly mop up the tail to give them a nail-biting 12-run victory. Saqlain got his second five-wicket haul of the innings to finish with ten for the match.


(Tim Holt was born in Northern Ireland in 1952. He found his love for cricket when he was sent to South Africa between 1964 and 1966. He is an unashamed cricket purist who feasts on Test cricket. His passion for the game cuts across geographical boundaries and into the domestic competitions. Tim, who has a background in journalism and teaching, has lived and worked in many places across the world)