© Getty Images and AFP
© Getty Images and AFP

2017 was punningly spellbinding for the bowlers. Nathan Lyon, Hasan Ali, and Yuzvendra Chahal were the highest-wicket takers in Tests, ODIs, and T20Is respectively. Rashid Khan, from the militant nation, emerged second in the shorter formats. Goodness knows how satanic he would have been had Afghanistan played Test cricket this year.

Rangana Herath, at 39, continued his thuggish performance, but the Sri Lankan board pit him against the No. 1 team in Tests, India, when his side did not possess the slightest memory of cricket. Despite that, he sniped up 52 wickets at 27.5 in 11 Tests, 4 of which came against India.

James Anderson became the first Englishman to scoop 500 Test wickets. Ravichandran Ashwin rose as the quickest to 300 Test wickets, ahead of Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan, and Herath. Lyon roared his way to emerge as the best Australian off-spinner. This and more in CricketCountry’s top 10 bowling spells in 2017: Kaustubh S. Mayekar relives the best performances in short tell-a-tales.

10. Hasan Ali’s 3 for 24 vs South Africa

Hasan Ali leaked runs profusely in Pakistan’s first match of the 2017 Champions Trophy. He petered out at 1 for 70, and India humiliated Pakistan by 124 runs.

Pakistan played South Africa next, in a must-win encounter.

Faf du Plessis and David Miller led the resurgence after South Africa were throttled to 60 for 3. Sarfraz Ahmed summoned Hasan when the ball was 21-over old. Pakistan, however, had been polishing the other side to garner reverse-swing. Hasan launched one off his late in-swingers on Faf and demolished his defence off the second delivery. In the same spell Hasan ran round the wicket and triggered an outside edge off JP Duminy’s bat and to the slips. Off the very next ball, Hasan conjured this delivery:

Hasan went on to take three 3 wickets in each match and was adjudged Player of the Tournament. Mohammad Aamer deserves a mention for his 3 for 16 in the final, but he scalped those with a new ball. Hasan did all these when the ball had lost its venom.

9. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s 4 for 8 vs Sri Lanka

Before Bhuvi almost took India to the victory in the Kolkata Test, Suranga Lakmal’s first spell in the first innings had read 11-9-5-3. If you have overlooked the fact, then let me ring an alarm that the match was played in India and Lakmal, a pacer, managed 9 maidens. Forget four-day Tests, let us go green. The layer of grass on the track was as thick as Lakmal’s performance. Lakmal had accounted for KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, and Virat Kohli.

But the best was yet to come in the match. It was Day Five. Sri Lanka needed 231 runs in less than two sessions. It was of course heading for a draw, but Kohli had scored 104 off a mere 119 balls for a reason. He knew his pacers would exploit swing off whatever grass was left. In the big picture painted above were the dark clouds. Bhuvi hunted down a Sri Lankan wicket in the very first over. India eyed a thrilling win and Sri Lanka survival.

Bhuvi bowled four maidens on the trot, forcing Kohli to keep him in the attack. And soon, Bhuvi snatched another one. With Mohammed Shami waiting to bowl in these conditions, Bhuvi’s first spell was restricted to 7 overs, which comprised 5 maidens, 3 runs, and 2 wickets. But he had to be summoned again. He could bowl only 4 more overs as bad light stopped play, but only after Bhuvi took 2 more wickets and producing 3 more maidens. Sri Lanka were 75 for 7 when the match concluded in a draw. Bhuvi’s spell of 11-8-8-4 on Day Five earned him Player of the Match ahead of Lakmal’s 11-9-5-3 on Day One.

8. Usman Khan’s 5 for 34 vs Sri Lanka

Usman Khan, in only his second ODI, caused a gasp of horror and pulverised Sri Lanka’s half the side in 3.3 overs. His 5-0-24-5 was the third-quickest five-for in ODIs since 2001 — the quickest being Chaminda Vaas (16 balls) against Bangladesh in 2003. To add more flavour to his glory, Usman Khan had replaced an injured Aamer for ODIs.

7. Shannon Gabriel’s 5 for 11 vs Pakistan

Pakistan skittled out West Indies for 268 in the second innings courtesy Yasir Khan’s magnificent 7 for 94. Pakistan needed 188 to win. Yes, West Indies would have defended it in days of yore. Their pacers used to wreak havoc in 1970s and 1980s, and even in 2000.

But the troika of Shanon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph, and Jason Holder would take offence. They wrapped up Pakistan for a mere 81 as Gabriel feasted on half their side — the biggest being Misbah-ul-Haq’s wicket. Gabriel boasted of figures of 11-4-11-5, stealing limelight from Yasir’s seven-for.

6. James Anderson’s 7 for 42 vs West Indies

The seam wobbles a bit, but it flows like a serene lake — calm and tranquil. And there goes Anderson running towards backward-point, with his both hands up in jubilation, while his teammates flock around him to celebrate the moment that saw the first Englishman to 500 wickets.

Anderson went on to take 6 more wickets, finishing with his career-best figures of 7 for 42.

5. Steve O’Keefe twice 6 for 35 vs India

India was supposed to win but Australia did. Kohli was supposed to score a century but Smith did. Ashwin was supposed to take six-fors but O’Keefe did. That was the story of the Pune Test that Australia won by 333 runs.

India had not prepared for O’Keefe, but he had prepared for those 12 wickets without anyone taking notice.

4. Rashid Khan 7 for 18 vs West Indies

Rashid Khan’s 7 for 18 is the fourth-best spell in ODIs. Need we say more? Four of these wickets were scalped off wrong ’uns. Here’s the video:

Defending 213, Afghanistan winded up West Indies for 149.

3. Rashid Khan 5 for 3 vs Ireland

DLS reduced Ireland’s target to 111 runs off 11 overs. Had David Shepherd been employed as an umpire in this match, he would have hopped, and more, before the chase began.

This meant that four bowlers would bowl 4 overs each and one would bowl 3. Before Rashid was summoned, Asghar Stanikzai had used up four bowlers. Ireland were 68 for 3 in 7 overs. Rashid had only 2 overs to bowl, and that was all he required: he finished with 5 for 3. Watch the video to believe it.

2. Yuzvendra Chahal’s 6 for 25 vs England

England lost 8 wickets for as many runs. There were 6 ducks and as many wickets for Chahal who became the first Indian to take a five-wicket haul in T20Is. Chahal grabbed one LBW, had one stumped, and four more caught. From 119 for 2, England were obliterated for 127.

1. Nathan Lyon’s 8 for 50 vs India

After O’Keefe spun a web around India in the first Test, Lyon ate 8 wickets at Bengaluru. India were too focussed on O’Keefe that they could not hear Lyon’s roar. KL Rahul scored 90 of India’s 187 runs. He could have collected more, but Lyon forced him into clear the infield. The ball did not journey beyond mid-off. Along with Rahul, he feasted on Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, and Ishant Sharma. His 8 for 50 are the best figures by a visiting bowler in India.