Wahab Riaz went from baffling his captain and coach for his bowling antics to the bowler who might have saved Pakistan from a loss in the ongoing Test against Sri Lanka in Dubai. On the second day, while attempting to deliver the penultimate ball of the 19th over (111th over, overall), Riaz pulled out from his run-up five times in a row. There was a noticeable wrath on Pakistan Captain Sarfraz Ahmed and Coach Mickey Arthur’s face. If the anger in the dressing room was not enough, Riaz was trolled on the social media for the clumsy behaviour. By stumps of Day two, Sri Lanka were bowled out but before that, they had piled up a mammoth total of 482 runs.
Riaz, who last played in the Kingston Test against West Indies before he was dropped for the rest of the series, once again looked to go the wrong way and only disappointed with his poor show. The consolation moment of bowling 26 overs was the wicket of Dimuth Karunaratne. Riaz denied the Lankan opener a Test double with a classic knuckleball, which was read wrong by the batsman. Otherwise, he bowled more than average throughout the innings.
Wahab’s only pinnacle in his career
Riaz, who made his Test debut in 2010, has so far in his career bagged a five-for only once. That had come in his debut match in the Oval. He seemed to be a promising pacer but unfortunately, he failed to live up to that image in the next seven years, which is why he has been on and off the team. In the nine years of Riaz’s international career, the only time when he earned attraction with his performance was in the Cricket World Cup 2015. His nasty spell removed David Warner and then Australian skipper Michael Clarke but the battle between Riaz and Australian all-rounder Shane Watson is cherished the most of that spell.
Riaz delivered a series of short balls and Watson somehow managed to survive those. A spell like that is mostly witnessed in Test cricket and it was one of those rare instances when that happened in ODIs. When Watson was on four, he accepted thr challenge and played a risky hook shot off one of the vicious balls from Riaz; unfortunate for the bowler, Rahat Ali at backward square point dropped the catch and Watson survived.
Following that match, that Wahab with that spell once again disappeared. Ever since then, he has been a part of the Pakistan side quite frequently but has never been able to repeat that.
Wahab’s career 2nd most powerful spell
Two years later, Riaz did come up with a special spell and at the very right time when Pakistan required him to step up and take the role of their spearhead after they lost Mohammad Amir in between the innings due to an injury. To a great delight to Pakistan captain, coach and the entire team, Riaz produced, probably his best-ever Test spell, and negated Sri Lanka’s control in the Test, by a great extent.
After Pakistan were bundled out for 262, that gave Sri Lanka a lead of 220 runs. But, Lanka Captain Dinesh Chandimal decided against enforcing the follow-on and the visiting party came out to bat once again. Little did they know they were going to be up against an intense Riaz who would derail their top-order in no time. Conceding just 10 runs, Riaz eradicated three batsmen, out of which two were Sri Lanka’s main batsmen – Karunaratne, Chandimal and Sadeera Samarawickrama.
Karunaratne, who scored a brilliant 196, became Riaz’s victim for a second innings in a row. The opener, while trying to cut a wide delivery from Riaz, only saw it deflect and fall on the wicket. He was bowled in the same fashion, against the same bowler in this Test. The fast bowler then had Samarawickrama glove the ball to the keeper, trying to hook a legside bouncer. Then he struck Chandimal in front with a ball that would have gone on to crash the top of leg stump.
In a day that saw 15 wickets fall, Wahab’s 3 for 10 in 3.3 overs certainly was the standout performance. Sri Lanka leads by 254 runs and in order to deny them a bigger lead, Pakistan will desperately want Wahab to repeat his show from Day three.