High praise for Wahab's 'nasty' spell

Michael Clarke labels performance of the Pakistan quick 'as good as I've faced in ODI cricket for a long time'

For the past 18 months, Australia’s Michael Clarke has been the envy of international captains the world over for one simple reason: Mitchell Johnson.

Clarke sprung a rejuvenated Johnson on England and South Africa to devastating effect in the 2013-14 summer, and the left-arm paceman’s menacing reputation has preceded him across all formats of the game since. 

But against Pakistan in Adelaide, Clarke felt he and his teammates were finally handed a dose of their own medicine in the form of an inspired spell of pace bowling from Wahab Riaz.

Watson evades a short ball from Wahab // Getty Images

Clarke rated the spell from Wahab, in which the Pakistani took two wickets and saw the potentially key breakthrough of Shane Watson literally slip through Rahat Ali’s fingers, as among the best he has been subjected to in ODIs.

"That’s as good as I’ve faced in one-day cricket for a long time, there’s no doubt about it,' said the skipper, who became Wahab’s second victim when he bunted a well-directed short ball straight to short leg.

"(It) probably gave us a good look at what it would have been like to face Mitchell Johnson throughout the Ashes.

Watson faces another nasty lifter from Wahab // Getty Images

"Left arm is always extra tough for a right-handed batsman because the angle of the ball is at your body the whole time, and he didn’t bowl too many bouncers that weren’t on the money.

"Credit to 'Watto' (Shane Watson) the way he hung in there – obviously he had a bit of luck getting dropped at fine leg – but the way he was able to get through that period and be there at the end shows his experience."

Bowling second change as Pakistan looked to defend a meagre total of 213, Wahab removed David Warner and Clarke as he regularly touched the 150kph mark, but it was his prolonged battle with Watson during the tensest period of the match that enthralled onlookers. 

The two combatants after the match // Getty Images

In a showdown more generally associated with Test cricket than the limited-overs game, Wahab delivered a series of short balls at the Australian allrounder, who was generally hurried into evasive action. 

When he was on four however, Watson accepted the challenge, playing a full-blooded hook shot that Rahat somehow dropped at deep backward square leg.

It was the turning point of the contest, and the moment took the wind was taken out of Wahab’s sails; he continued valiantly for another over, but the devastating pace and accuracy that had made the spell such a memorable one faded, and was soon replaced by some erratic shorter deliveries and some verbal bluster.

Rahat Ali picks up the pieces of his dropped catch // Getty Images

"It was pretty nasty, I had a lot of luck to be able to get through that spell," Watson told Fox Sports.

"He gave it everything all the way through the whole game.

"We knew he was a danger man, he had his tail up and he bowled some nasty balls on the money, a lot of them.

"A bit of luck went my way to get through that spell.

Wahab shows his displeasure at the dropped catch // Getty Images

"He was bowling good pace, but also the angle ... it was hard to be able to try and get my head out of my way. It kept following me. I'm glad I got through it."

The genesis of Wahab’s furious spell could have been traced back to Pakistan’s innings with the bat, when he received some advice from Mitchell Starc about exactly what the ball looked like after a series of plays and misses.

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq suggested "that could be a possibility" when asked if that fired Wahab up, but also said the paceman had been consistently bowling quality spells during the World Cup.

The pair square off late in the match // Getty Images

"Nobody in this world is such good against a bowler who is bowling 150kph with this sort of deceptive pace and bounce," he said.

"He really bowled well. Throughout the World Cup he was totally a different bowler, and today he’s shown his class again.

"At one stage we were pretty much in the game the way he was bowling, and that catch could have made a big difference."