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2000s in Review

Wisden’s ODI spell of the 2000s, No.5: Shoaib Akhtar’s 5-25

Shoaib Akhtar 5-25
Yas Rana by Yas Rana
@Yas_Wisden 2 minute read

Shoaib Akhtar’s 5-25 against Australia at Brisbane in 2002 is fifth in the Wisden men’s ODI spells of the 2000s list. Part of Wisden’s 2000s in Review series.

Shoaib Akhtar 5-25

Australia v Pakistan, 3rd ODI
The Gabba, Brisbane
June 19, 2002

At the turn of the 21st century, Shoaib Akhtar was probably the fastest bowler cricket had seen and has seen since. From January 1999 to the end of the 2003 World Cup, Akhtar took 128 ODI wickets at 20.36. He was simply devastating and in the first half of 2002, Akhtar reached his peak within a peak. 

Across April and May he produced a pair of breathtaking six-fors against New Zealand. First, in an ODI at Karachi where, practically running in from the boundary rope, he rattled out a succession of 95mph yorkers that proved too much for the Black Caps. Then in a Test at Lahore a couple of weeks later, he took 6-11 to help bowl the tourists out for 73 in response to Pakistan’s first-innings total of 643. A month later in Brisbane, Akhtar was at his absolute best. 

Here he ripped the heart out of the Australian middle order that would go on to win the World Cup just nine months later. Ricky Ponting was beaten by an in-ducker (93.8 mph) that rattled his off stump; Darren Lehmann was bowled after leaving leg stump exposed with a shuffle across (93.4mph); Damien Martyn was caught at third man attempting a wild cut (94.6mph), and Michael Bevan edged behind off one targeted at the top of his off stump (89.5mph). 

Ponting’s Australia reduced from 44-1 to 83-6 in the blink of an eye, almost single-handedly by Akhtar. He finished with five after beating Jason Gillespie with an inswinging yorker that was almost cruel in its precision. When Akhtar retired in 2011, Ponting said he was the fastest bowler he had faced in international cricket. When you rewatch his spell that day in Brisbane, you can see why. 

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