It’s a hopeless situation. The fielding side has their tails up, smelling the scent of victory. The batting side is in dire straits, though one of them is entrenched at the crease, but despite his best efforts, the score just isn’t moving along at the required pace.
In walks a man not particularly known to score big. You could be excused for thinking that the fielding team has only to knock him over and grab the win.
What follows is an anti-climax of sorts. The man starts connecting the ball with the willow, and before anyone else realizes it, he has already scored thirty-odd runs. The choke-hold is released, the fielders stunned, and the rival skipper realizes he has lost the plot.
This is what a cameo can do for you.
It is a useful little innings, but its importance to the bigger scheme of things is paramount; it could well become the difference between a win and a loss, as the Indians found out to their cost the other night at Mohali.
Here is a look at ten of these terrific gems which changed the entire complexion of the games that were played:
Adrian Kuiper vs India (63* off 41 balls), 1991
In South Africa’s first tour after their recall to international sports following the end of the apartheid regime, Adrian Kuiper played a gem of an innings in the final game of a three-match series against India, which not only propelled his side to a consolation win but also marked their first win in an ODI after quite a while.
The home team had put on 287 on the board, courtesy a solid century from Ravi Shastri and an explosive hundred from Sanjay Manjrekar. In all fairness, they should have won this game.
But Kepler Wessels, the former Australian batsman, joined hands with Peter Kirsten as they chipped away at the Indian total, and the departure of the former only served to bring in Kuiper, who went after the bowling from the word go.
Relying on deft touches and impeccable placement, the 32-year old played his strokes all over the wicket, and nearly replicated his Eden Gardens six with another powerful hit into the stands. In all, his quickfire knock was laced with seven boundaries besides the mammoth shot, as he put on the remaining 105 runs with the veteran Kirsten to get the win.
Ajay Jadeja v/s Pakistan (45 off 25 balls), 1996 WC QF
In any World Cup tournament, Indian fans want two things – victory in the summit clash, and a clinical demolition of arch rivals Pakistan. As former wicket-keeper Rashid Latif once pointed out, it doesn’t get bigger than this.
India continued their domination over their subcontinent neighbours in the quadrennial showpiece, but nothing in their initial approach suggested that they would end up victorious in that game. Despite Wasim Akram pulling out with an injury, his bowling partner Waqar Younis was breathing fire, and Navjot Sidhu’s invaluable 93 kept the Indian hopes alive.
Regular strikes by the Men in Green had troubled the Indians, but then came the turnaround. Ajay Jadeja, who had been tried as an opener in the earlier games, walked in at No. 6 and proceeded to play an innings that made the difference between the two sides.
He took on Waqar in his ninth over, dispatching the half-volley to the cover boundary first up. Realizing he was in the zone, Jadeja went for his shots. He flicked the stunned pacer for two sixes in that over, one of which came off the inswinging yorker that was Waqar’s trademark. In all, the Pakistani speedster’s final two overs cost his side 40 runs, as India posted 287.
What followed next is now part of cricketing folklore – Prasad sent Aamer Sohail’s off-stump cartwheeling after being sledged, Javed Miandad ended his international career with a whimper, and India progressed to the semi-finals. In all that kerfuffle in the second innings, Jadeja’s magic is sometimes forgotten.
Robin Singh v/s Zimbabwe (48 off 31 balls), 1997
Trust the crisis man to bail the side out of a jam every single time.
Robin Singh, the 34-year old all-rounder, walked in when India were floundering in their chase of 236, having lost five wickets with only 110 runs on the board. He took stock of the situation: Eddo Brandes had been running amok, knocking over the opposition batsmen left and right, while drying up the runs and making it difficult to score.
The left-hander stole the singles, exhorted his partner Ajay Jadeja to run like an antelope, and kept picking the gaps to push the scoreboard along. After Jadeja’s dismissal, Robin kept up the scoring rate with the tail for company, and even managed to hit a couple of sixes over the leg side – his trademark shots.
Off the final ball, the batsmen tried to steal a bye, with Singh sprinting down the pitch as if his life depended on it. But Brandes, in his follow-through, picked up the ball and fired in a direct hit at the non-striker’s end, catching the all-rounder short. The umpire signalled a wide, and the game ended in a thrilling tie.
Both Robin and Brandes ended up sharing the man of the match award, and the all-rounder was praised widely for bringing his side back from the clutches of defeat.
Moin Khan v/s Australia (31* off 12 balls), 1999 World Cup
With Pakistan five wickets down against the Australians on a Headingley pitch that offered plenty of assistance to the quicker bowlers, hopes of getting a 250-plus total looked faint.
But then wicket-keeper Moin Khan played a superb knock, infusing momentum back into his side’s innings with some audacious strokes. He smashed his first delivery from Damien Fleming for a boundary, before pulling Glenn McGrath for a cracking six.
He then brought out the shot of the day – a casual flick over forward square leg off Fleming for yet another six – before repeating the same shot against McGrath in the final over, then finished the innings with a flourish, cutting the seamer to third man for another boundary, as Pakistan reached 275 and won a thriller by just ten runs.
Yuvraj Singh v/s England (69 off 63 balls), 2002
Sublime, with all the enthusiasm of youth – this is the best way to sum up the Punjab youngster’s innings against a powerful England side in the NatWest final of 2002.
After India had lost five wickets despite a rollicking start from the openers in pursuit of 326, Yuvraj combined with his U-19 WC skipper Mohammad Kaif to engineer a revival.
Deftly finding the gaps, the stylish left-hander ran hard, backed fully by his partner, as they kept chipping away at the total. He also played his trademark shots – fluent cover drives were unleashed whenever width was offered, and also managed to hit a towering six with a lot of flair and power behind the shot.
Their 121-run stand was broken by Paul Collingwood, but by then, the platform had been laid, and Kaif worked out the rest of the runs in the company of the lower order to herald the win and prompt Indian captain Sourav Ganguly to wave his shirt from the Lord’s balcony!
Andy Blignaut v/s Australia (54 off 28 balls), 2003 WC
Australian left-arm chinaman bowler Brad Hogg hates the number 646. It reminds him of a time when a big-hitting Zimbabwean left-hander went after him in a game at the 2003 World Cup, though Hogg had the satisfaction of ending up on the winners’ podium.
Andy Blignaut, a fearsome hitter of the cricket ball, proceeded to churn out an explosive cameo off just 28 balls – and in those four and a half overs, he made the Aussies sweat for wickets. With Tatenda Taibu holding up one end, Blignaut tore into the bowling, hitting Hogg for two sixes and a four in a single over, before dishing out similar treatment to Jason Gillespie as he plundered runs in torrents.
The left-hander was finally dismissed by Brett Lee, but he had done enough to ensure that his side had a decent total on the board. Unfortunately, he ended up conceding exactly the same number of runs he scored in his ten-over spell as Australia wrapped up a comfortable win in a match that was dominated by politics and selection intrigues.
Ricardo Powell v/s South Africa (40* off 18 balls), 2003
This match will be remembered for a magical innings from the legendary Brian Lara, whose century came after a four-month spell out of the side due to illness. Inspired by his knock, a 25-year old Jamaican arrived at the crease to craft a special gem of his own – one that helped his side to a fighting total against the Proteas.
Ricardo Powell, known for his hard hitting, lit up the Newlands stadium with a blazing cameo as he went berserk against the likes of Pollock, Donald, Ntini and Klusener in the opening match of the 2003 World Cup.
He smashed the usually-accurate SA skipper for a massive six in his final over, plundering 23 runs off it, and along with Ramnaresh Sarwan, he took 63 runs off the last four overs, sparing no bowler who came up against him. The booming drives and lofts were on full display for the Calypso fans to cheer and dance about, and Ricardo’s pulverizing innings set up a decent score.
West Indies managed to eke out a three-run win despite Klusener’s pyrotechnics , and Vasbert Drakes bowled a phenomenal spell towards the end to dent South Africa’s hopes of a winning start.
Johannes van der Wath v/s Australia (35 off 18 balls) , 2006
Compared to the slug-fest that took place, courtesy centuries from Australian captain Ricky Ponting and Proteas’ Herschelle Gibbs, the stroke-filled cameo from Johannes van der Wath looks tiny in terms of the runs scored. But it was a pivotal knock under the circumstances, and worth its weight in gold as South Africa mounted a heroic pursuit of the challenging 434-run target set for them.
After Gibbs departed, Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher kept the scorecard ticking with a 28-run stand, but once Kallis and the big-hitting Justin Kemp were dismissed with South Africa still needing a lot more, the pressure mounted. It required a serious intervention, and luckily for them, it came in the shape of van der Wath.
He smacked two towering sixes off the hapless Mick Lewis, then helped himself to a boundary and another massive six off Nathan Bracken. Suddenly the runs started flowing as the 400-run mark appeared around the corner.
Bracken took out van der Wath with South Africa still short by forty-odd runs, but it was to be a day of miracles, and Boucher creamed the penultimate ball of the innings for a boundary to trigger wild celebrations in the dressing room. In the context of the game, however, van der Wath’s innings proved crucial.
Craig McMillan v/s Australia (117 off 96 balls), 2007
The only blemish Mike Hussey would have on an otherwise impressive career will be a losing record as Australian captain, though he was only standing in for Ricky Ponting. It was, unfortunately, under his leadership that Australia ended up losing the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy to trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand, buckling under a ferocious onslaught led by the gladiator of the Black Caps – Craig McMillan.
Matthew Hayden had earlier played a phenomenal ODI innings, scoring an unbeaten 181 to take his side to a mammoth 346. He was ably supported by fellow opener Shane Watson’s run-a-ball half century and a whirlwind innings from wicket-keeper Brad Haddin made the total look daunting.
Then, the trio of Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait and Nathan Bracken took out four Kiwis – including skipper Stephen Fleming and the big-hitting Ross Taylor – to leave them gasping with only 41 on the board. But they hadn’t reckoned with McMillan.
The all-rounder had been out of favour with the selectors for a prolonged form slump, but he put all criticism behind him to smash the stuffing out of the Aussie bowlers. Boundaries and sixes cascaded from his blade as he accelerated in the company of Peter Fulton and then Brendon McCullum.
He smashed Watson for two monstrous sixes over long-on, and from then on, it was carnage as he used his brute strength with immaculate footwork to rip the bowling apart. Debutant Adam Voges was struck for two huge sixes as McMillan brought up his first ODI hundred since 2002.
Though he fell with New Zealand still short of victory, McCullum took up the charge and helped the side cross the finish line, winning the series 3-0 and inflicting more misery on the Aussies.
James Faulkner v/s India (64* off 29 balls), 2013
He broke millions of Indian hearts with his uninhibited butchery in the 48th over of the Australian chase, but James Faulkner also showed that he was no mug with the bat as he piloted his side to a come-from-behind win against India in the third ODI at Mohali.
With 304 to get, courtesy a magnificent unbeaten century from Indian captain MS Dhoni, Australia struggled with the chase, despite fluent knocks from opener Aaron Finch and skipper George Bailey. Glenn Maxwell’s run out in between did not help them either. It left the Kangaroos with 18 balls in which to score 44 runs, with Adam Voges still on the bridge.
But Faulkner turned the game on its head with a blistering counter-attack on the lanky Ishant Sharma. He found the sweet spot off the first delivery – full and wide – and sent it over cover for a boundary. The next two deliveries landed into the stands, one over cow corner and the other over the bowler’s head.
Ishant lost his way, and dished out three more short balls, two of which were ferociously belted into the crowd, and the equation came down to 14 from the last two overs, which Australia attained with relative ease, with Faulkner slamming the winning six.