When T20 cricket is being watched, almost everyone anticipates for a four or a six frequently since bowlers are expected to be thrashed in a span of 120 deliveries. Some teams have a balance of batsmen who are not only destructive but constructive too, taking the cheeky ones and twos if not get the boundaries. So runs are usually not hard to come by. However, on a pitch suited for bowlers or overcast conditions might assist in the batsmen struggling to score. Not to mention, some skilled bowlers who have a brilliant 24 ball spell on a given day.
Here are those bowlers who have produced specials in the 7 years of T20 internationals.
1) Ajantha Mendis (Sri Lanka) – 6/16 vs. Australia, 2011
Ajantha Mendis is the world’s No.1 ranked T20 bowler at the moment and it is mainly due to his spell at Pallekele against Australia in the first of the two T20 internationals Sri Lanka played against them at home in the summer of 2011.
Sri Lanka came into this game right after a poor tour of England, so they wanted to utilize the T-20s to boost their confidence against the once world champions.
Sri Lanka won the toss and batted first on what was a characteristically dry pitch. They could manage 157 courtesy a classy 86 runs off 63 balls from the opener, Mahela Jayawardene. Australia had their task cut out, despite having a strong batting line-up in terms of T-20 cricket, with the likes of Shane Watson, David Warner, Shaun Marsh, David Hussey and Cameron White playing this game.
Australia started off superbly with 71 runs in the first 5.5 overs due to a blitzkrieg from Watson, but it was Mendis who picked his wicket as he tempted Watson to slog a flighted carrom ball. What was to follow was a wicket-burst, with Warner falling in the first ball of his next over and Marsh declared out three balls later with a flighted googly. Mendis’ skills came to the fore big time.
But he was not done, having two more overs to bowl in his second spell. He was on a hat-trick in his third over with wickets of Steven Smith and the unpredictable Brad Haddin. He did not achieve the hat-trick but finished his 4 overs with the wicket of Mitchell Johnson which almost sealed the game for Sri Lanka.
Fortunately for Mendis, Sri Lanka won by a narrow margin of 8 runs to go 1-0 up in the series.
2) Umar Gul (Pakistan) – 5/6 vs. New Zealand, 2009
Gul, one of the most sought-after T-20 bowlers in world cricket had to have this record to his name. Only a bowler of his skill and ability can pick a 5-wicket haul in T-20 cricket, and he achieved this feat against New Zealand at The Oval in 2009 during the World T-20 championships in England.
This was a Super 8s game for Pakistan which was an extremely crucial one since a victory would have given them a place in the semifinals. New Zealand won the toss and elected to bat first, only to be bowled out for a paltry 99 in 18.3 overs. Scott Styris top-scored with 22, but the rest failed miserably and Gul was the chief destructor with 5 wickets, which included the wicket of Styris and the wiping out of the lower-order. Peter McGlashan, Nathan McCullum and James Franklin can all bat but Umar Gul was too good for them on the day. Kyle Mills was his last victim as he picked five wickets in a span of five overs, as he was given the ball as late as the 13th over of the game surprisingly, by captain Younis Khan.
Pakistan chased the 100 runs required without much difficulty, winning by 6 wickets in the end with 6.5 overs to spare and they would go on to play South Africa in the semifinal. Pakistan won the championship in the end, as this spell from Gul have them a huge morale booster.
3) Tim Southee (New Zealand) – 5/18 vs. Pakistan, 2010
As it is said ‘Tit for tat’. If Gul, the pacer did it for Pakistan against New Zealand then Southee, the pacer did it for New Zealand against Pakistan. This was 17 months later though, and in a two match T-20 series at home. This was the first match of the series, played at Auckland.
The Kiwis won the toss and chose to bowl first. Incidentally, Southee who usually opens the bowling for New Zealand, bowled as a second-change bowler like Gul in the 2009 game. Southee’s first spell saw him get an incredible hat-trick with the dismissals of Younis Khan, Mohammad Hafeez and Umar Akmal. But before these wickets, he got the wicket of Ahmed Shahzad in his very first over. The menacing Abdul Razzaq fell cheaply in his third over, with Pakistan reeling at 68/6 in 9.2 overs itself.
Southee ended with mesmerizing figures of 5/18 in 4 overs with a maiden over to his credit as New Zealand went on to win by 5 wickets and go 1-0 up in the two match series.
4) Ryan McLaren (South Africa) – 5/19 vs. West Indies, 2010
McLaren is not a regular member of the South African team at the moment but he was a fad in the summer of 2010 when South Africa remained in West Indies after the T-20 World Cup to play the hosts for a tour containing 2 T-20s, 5 ODIs and 3 Tests.
In the first T-20 against the Windies, McLaren was experimented with by the South African think-tank to see if he can be picked for the ODIs to come. West Indies batted second in the game, and were left to chase 137 in 20 overs to win. Ryan McLaren was bought in a first change bowler, as early as the third over by Graeme Smith and struck in only his third ball with the wicket of Andre Fletcher, the opening wicket-keeper batsman.
He was used very cleverly as he bowled only one over in his second spell. He bowled the 6th over and disrupted the West Indies further with the massive wicket of the captain Chris Gayle. He bowled a total of four spells in which he cleaned up the burly and dangerous Kieron Pollard, and picked two more scalps in the form of Darren Sammy and Suleiman Benn.
South Africa won by 13 runs, and had the best chance to wrap up the series by whitewashing the hosts which they eventually did.
5) Nehemiah Odhiambo (Kenya) – 5/20 vs. Scotland, 2010
Odhiambo’s name almost has zero popularity in the cricketing world but he is the proud holder of a record which involved picking a five-wicket haul in T-20 cricket. Although it came against a team as low as Scotland, but for Kenyan cricket this is a big achievement as they are minnows too!
It came in a T-20 international in Nairobi in 2010. Kenya won the toss and elected to field first and Odhiambo took full advantage of the decision as he ended with spell-binding figures of 5/20 in 4 overs, with two wickets each in his second over and last over respectively. Scotland, in the end, were bowled for 123 in 19.2 overs.
Kenya won the match by 10 wickets and this was the final of a tri-series which also featured Uganda.
6) Darren Sammy (West Indies) – 5/26 vs. Zimbabwe, 2010
Sammy, the West Indies captain can be a handy bowler in T-20 cricket as well. And he proved his mettle in a match against Zimbabwe in Port of Spain, Trinidad in 2010.
Zimbabwe chose to bat first on a pitch which was likely to deteriorate further as the game went on. And the West Indies bowlers decided to make a mockery out of an inexperienced Zimbabwean batting line-up. Sammy was the most successful of the pacers, as he finished with figures of 5/26 in 3.5 overs, with the last 5 out of the 6 Zimbabwe wickets to have fallen were in his name. The two top-scoring batsmen, Hamilton Mazakadza and Elton Chigumbura lost their wickets to him at crucial intervals with Chigumbura’s wicket being massive considering how powerful a striker of the cricket ball he is.
He finished off the lower order in still to help his side bowl Zimbabwe out for a mere 105 but shockingly West Indies lost the game by 26 runs, with the visitor’s potent and vast spin attack on a role.
7) Suleiman Benn (West Indies) – 4/6 vs. Zimbabwe, 2010
In the same match, Suleiman Benn, the lanky West Indies left-armer also achieved a four-wicket haul to perfectly complement Darren Sammy’s five wickets. He may no longer be in the West Indies side, but he has gone down in history for producing a performance which is in the top 10 of T-20 cricket.
He opened the bowling for the West Indies and had a cracking start, getting a wicket of his first ball getting the stumps shattered of Zimbabwe’s opening batsman, Vusi Sibanda. Tatenda Taibu, the wicket-keeper batsman and Stuart Matsikenyari was out in the second over, with the score still being 0/3 after 2.4 overs. The procession of wickets continued with Brendan Taylor, one of the top batsmen of the side was dismissed in the fifth over and the score was 11/4, with Benn picking all the four wickets.
He bowled 4 overs on the trot with 2 maidens, giving away just 6 runs picking as many as 4 wickets. How often are such figures seen in T-20 cricket?
8) Mark Gillespie (New Zealand) – 4/7 vs. Kenya, 2007
Gillespie could be described as one of the ‘thrown away talents’ of New Zealand cricket as he was the toast of the nation in the year 2007. It got better for him in the World T-20 in South Africa, where in the very first match of the tournament, he picked 4 wickets in a span of 3.5 overs for only 7 runs against minnows Kenya in a group game.
He opened the bowling for New Zealand alongside the quick Shane Bond and both of them in tandem meant trouble for the fragile Kenyan batting line-up. Bond helped Gillespie rip it apart to an extent, as he picked two wickets in his first over and they were big ones, of the veteran Steve Tikolo and opener David Obuya. Kenya were reduced to a sorry 1/4 in 2 overs and could never think of coming back into the match.
But Gillespie was not done with his demolition job as he wanted more and more. In his final over, he picked the last two wickets as Kenya folded for an appalling 73. It was a comfortable finish for New Zealand, with a 9-wicket win eventually.
9) Umar Gul (Pakistan) – 4/8 vs. Australia, 2009
And it is Gul once again making this list! It shows his ability to be such a prolific wicket-taker for his side in T-20s especially, with his deadly pace and accuracy wrecking havoc in even the best of batting line-ups. And Australia were one of his few victims.
It was in Dubai in May 2009 where Australia were playing ‘hosts’ Pakistan in a one-off T-20 international, after a 5 match ODI series. Pakistan’s captain Misbah ul Haq won the toss and asked Australia to bat first, in order to give his bowlers the first go on the pitch. And his decision was justified considering Pakistan’s strength being their bowling rather than their batting.
Gul was bought in to bowl in the fifth over following some power-hitting from Shane Watson in the first four overs. And he did exactly what his captain and team wanted him to do, get Watson out as quickly as possible, and his wicket came off his very first ball. That turned the match completely as Australia relied on Watson for a big total with the other batsmen struggling against playing spin.
But it was Gul who took away with the honours picking up the last three of the four wickets and important ones, those of Marcus North, Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz to finish off Australia for 108 in 19.5 overs. Pakistan went on to thrash the Aussies by 7 wickets and won the series as well, since there was no second match played.
10) Dale Steyn (South Africa) – 4/9 vs. West Indies, 2007
And Steyn deservedly out of bowlers, completes this list. He too has achieved a four-wicket haul in T-20 cricket despite struggling in this format to an extent, in comparison to ODIs and Tests. And this devastating spell came in a T-20 international against West Indies in December 2007.
The match was reduced to 13 overs due to rain and consequently, West Indies won the toss and elected to field first. South Africa finished at a miserable 59/8 courtesy Jerome Taylor picking up 3 wickets in 3 overs. Therefore it had to take a fighting performance from the hosts to win this game.
Dale Steyn had to lead from the front in this pursuit and he did, despite the presence of Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini. He picked 4 wickets in 3 overs, outperforming Taylor and providing South Africans with some joy and all the Durban fans with some entertainment in an otherwise dull game where rain was playing spoilsport. And all of the batsmen were clean bowled by Steyn, which shows how fired up he was to rise to the challenge.
West Indies went to win by 5 wickets and went 1-0 up in the series and Steyn’s efforts were unfortunately forgotten as it was one of the deadliest spells of fast bowling in T-20 cricket one could ever see.