There was the magical ‘Gatting Ball’ in the summer of 1993 that has since become a highlight in the legendary Shane Warne’s career. The Australian spin legend would go on to bowl another such delivery to Andrew Strauss over a decade later. Muttiah Muralitharan, Warne’s contemporary and fellow spin rival, was not to be left behind in the list of ‘Balls of the Century’ with his dismissal of Mark Butcher at Edgbaston in 2002.
If one were to look for a similar delivery in the white-ball formats, Ravichandran Ashwin’s dismissal of Hashim Amla in the 2014 ICC World T20 semi-final in Dhaka would be the one to consider.
The Tamil Nadu off-spinner, who was part of the MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings (CSK) around that time, had charted a steady rise through the ranks after making his India debut in 2010, and by the 2014 ICC World T20, had pretty much become the first-choice spinner for the Men in Blue alongside Ravindra Jadeja as Harbhajan Singh’s fortunes began to fade.
India had entered the mega event on the back of disappointing tours of South Africa and New Zealand. They had also not been too impressive in the T20 World Cups after winning the inaugural edition in South Africa, failing to reach the semis in the next three. Dhoni’s men, however, were clinical in the group stage this time around, making a cakewalk of chases against Pakistan, West Indies and hosts Bangladesh before bowling Australia out for a meagre 86 to record a massive 73-run victory, setting up a semi-final meeting with the Proteas.
The Indians struck early after South Africa opted to bat, as Bhuvneshwar Kumar removed Quinton de Kock in the fourth delivery of the innings. The pressure however, was back on the Indians after a flurry of boundaries in the fourth and fifth overs bowled by Mohit Sharma and Bhuvneshwar respectively. Dhoni, then, decided to bring Ashwin into the attack in the final over of the powerplay, hoping to break the budding partnership between Amla and Faf du Plessis.
The magic ball
Ashwin started from around the wicket to Amla, hoping to set the South African batting stalwart up for the carrom ball with the unusual angle. And make an instant impact he did, taking just two deliveries — only one of which was legal, with the first ball of the over going for a wide down leg — to break the stand.
The second delivery saw the carrom ball fired at Amla drift slightly inward, pitching well outside the leg stump slightly short of the full length. The South African opener was ready to poke the ball through the square-leg/midwicket region, getting on his back foot and staying very much on top of the bounce. What he certainly did not account for was the immense turn that Ashwin generated, getting beaten completely in the end as the ball went on to clip the top of the off stump — every bowler’s delight.
The dismissal did create ripples in the cricketing fraternity on social media. Legendary wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist was the one who bestowed it with the honour of the “T20 Ball of the Century”.
Ashwin himself reminisced the delivery in a video posted to his YouTube channel in September last year.
“I bowled the first ball with the new ball, and he left it. A wide down the leg side. I had planned this for the entire tournament. Then Dhoni gave back the ball, said he’s going to play you like this, you bowl.
“But I told myself to stick to the plan, and delivered the next. It pitched on a small foot-hole and he was bowled. Many rate that ball highly,” said the wily off-spinner with more than 600 international wickets to his credit.
The dismissal of Amla wasn’t Ashwin’s only contribution in the game. He was taken off the attack after that one over, with Du Plessis and AB de Villiers then bringing South Africa back in the game with a 71-run third-wicket stand, the former bringing up his half-century along the way.
The Proteas could have put up a much bigger total, however, than the 172/4 that they eventually managed, had it not been for Ashwin’s twin-striker in the middle overs that saw the back of both FDP and ABD. In the end, the 173-run target turned out to be quite gettable for the Indians as Virat Kohli, then cementing his reputation as a chase-master, anchored the innings brilliantly with a 44-ball 72 to guide India into the second World T20 final.
The summit clash, though, would mark the beginning of India’s long stretch of heartbreaks in ICC events as they would lose to Sri Lanka by six wickets after posting a sub-par 130/4.
/ 3 years ago
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