In one of his more memorable roles, legendary Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan once said that English is a very funny language. It was an apt saying, certainly, but incomplete in certain respects.
Cricket, like English, is also funny – one of the funniest games ever invented. It is a see-saw, a keen tussle between bat and ball, with neither triumphing over the other for long periods.
You can see instances of this in the longer version, where a superb batting display is beautifully balanced by an equally lion-hearted bowling effort.
However, in ODI cricket, the bat has wielded a lot of dominance, consigning exponents of the white ball to mere pedestrians at times. Huge scores have now become the norm, and former South African batsman Barry Richards has warned that with an increasing propensity to score more runs, the bowlers are being taken out of the equation.
New Zealand’s Martin Snedden once gave away 105 runs in his quota of 12 overs during a World Cup game against England in 1983. He did manage to take two wickets, but became the first bowler to give away more than a hundred runs in international cricket – certainly not an instance to be proud of!
The advent of T20 cricket has tilted the scales towards the batsmen, though bowlers have countered with clever variations. But there are days where key strikers have been hit all over the park by willow wielders.
Below is a list of the top five expensive spells in ODI cricket:
5. Wayne Parnell (2/95 in 10 overs; SA vs India, Gwalior, 24 Feb 2010)
On a day where one of the greatest batsmen in the history of cricket re-wrote the record books multiple times, a young left-arm seamer, all of 21, received a rough initiation into his second year of international cricket.
Former SA U-19 captain Wayne Parnell, turning out as the new ball partner with explosive pacer Dale Steyn, found himself up against the might of Sachin Tendulkar barely two overs into the match. And right away, the maestro put him in place with two lovely boundaries past mid-off and mid-wicket, respectively.
Dinesh Karthik, coming in at No.3 also hammered consecutive fours off the young seamer, before Tendulkar compounded his misery further with two more sublime strokes that found the fence. The seamer got rid of Karthik, but kept offering width to Sachin who used it to his advantage. Yusuf Pathan and MS Dhoni also joined the party, and Parnell, in simple terms, lost it completely. He ended up giving away 95 runs in his full quota as India posted 401 and went on to win by 153 runs.
4. Lasith Malinga (1/96 in 7.4 overs; SL vs India, Hobart, 28 Feb 2012)
This one was a thriller for sure. For India to make it to the final of the Commonwealth Bank Series, they had to attain the target of 321 in 40 overs against a charged-up Sri Lanka squad and turn around a tour that had become a giant albatross hanging around MS Dhoni’s neck; they had been whitewashed 4-0 in the preceding Test series against the Aussies.
And the man who bore the brunt of Virat Kohli’s brutal assault was the slinger himself. Lasith Malinga had more than just a forgettable day in the field; he was completely decimated by the young Delhi batsman.
The initial onslaught of boundaries came from openers Sachin and Sehwag; by the time Kohli arrived to the wicket, Malinga had already gone for 30-odd in his first three overs. He managed to knock over the Little Master, but then bled runs freely as first Gautam Gambhir and then Kohli got stuck into him.
The yorkers were missing their mark, and the line and length went for a complete toss. Malinga’s bowling in the Powerplay went from wayward to horrid in one stroke and a single over.
Kohli savaged the pacer for 24 runs in those six deliveries, including a wonderful six over mid-wicket, and finished off the game with consecutive boundaries as the wild-haired speedster cut a crestfallen figure at the other end.
3. Muttiah Muralitharan (0/99 in 10 overs; Aus vs SL, Sydney, 12 Feb 2006)
The wily off-spinner also came in for severe punishment at the hands of the burly former all-rounder Andrew Symonds as Australia mounted a stunning comeback in the second final of the VB Series in 2006.
After Chaminda Vaas’s initial opening burst had the 2003 World Cup winners three down for just ten runs, Symonds joined skipper Ricky Ponting and proceeded to unleash all sorts of brutal strokes over the ground. Murali was targeted for special treatment.
Symonds drove the off spinner for a huge six over long-on and then launched the next ball into the Members’ Stand en-route to a magnificent century. Ponting also took the ruthless approach, aggravated by Jaywardene’s claim of having him caught at backward point, and blasted boundaries off Murali at will, leaving him completely flabbergasted.
To round off a rather poor day, Mike Hussey also tonked the off-spinner for a six in an over that went for 21 runs, as he and Michael Clarke plundered more than a hundred runs in the last ten overs. Sri Lanka stood no chance of overhauling the massive target, and went down by 167 runs, with Murali falling one run short of conceding a century in his 60-ball spell.
2. Tim Southee (0/105 in 10 overs, NZ vs India, Christchurch, 8 March 2009)
The small AMI Stadium in Christchurch turned out to be a graveyard for the bowlers on both sides, but it was Kiwi pacer Tim Southee who was bled dry by the powerful Indian batting line-up on a belter of a track during the third game of a five-match bilateral ODI series.
Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh led the butchery as Southee was left bereft of ideas; every single delivery ended up either in the fence or over it. In the excitement of getting the big wicket of Sehwag early, the young pace bowler ended up bowling in an extremely wayward manner.
He ended up giving away 105 runs, and tried to salvage some respectability with a few big hits of his own, but India were not to be denied, and they eventually ran out victors by 58 runs.
1. Mick Lewis (0/113 in 10 overs, Aus vs SA, Johannesburg, 2006)
The game was nothing more than a slugfest as runs cascaded from the blades of the batsmen like waterfalls. Unfortunately for one bowler, it turned out to be the worst hiding he would ever get, quashing his hopes of cementing a place in the limited-overs squad for his nation.
Mick Lewis was called up to replace the absent Glenn McGrath, who had returned to be by his ailing wife’s bedside. He had sealed the second game of the recent Chappell-Hadlee series with a brilliant last over, and was known in domestic circles as a death-overs specialist; it was this ability that prompted skipper Ricky Ponting to ask for his services in McGrath’s place.
It would turn out to be the most incorrect decision of his career.
Herschelle Gibbs, Graeme Smith and Johannes van der Wath had different plans that day. Chasing a 400-plus target, they had to take the attack to the opposition and raise it by several notches. And for that, one bowler had to suffer the most. They chose Mick.
He was subjected to a lot of boundaries and sixes, losing his line and running out of options at times. For once, his famed death-bowling skills seemed to have deserted him, although he really didn’t bowl all that badly. The batsmen were just too good.
However, figures are all that matter in a game of cricket, and Lewis’ final tally did no justice to his immense talent. He ended up giving away 113 runs – the most expensive in ODI history – as South Africa went on to complete a record-breaking win to take the series.
Lewis eventually lost his central contract, and retired from cricket two years after the pasting at the Wanderers. He made it to the record books all right – but not in the way he expected.