There have already been a couple of remarkable individual performances with the bat and ball – most of which could go down in any World Cup highlight package in years to come – that have made the tournament shine, if only for a few hours at a time.
Here are those top performances so far:
Tim Southee (7/33 v/s England)
Rarely will you see an entire international team have no answers to the masterful swing generated by a single bowler throughout an innings. England were absolutely miserable against Southee, who for his part, destroyed a batting line-up that had no clue which way the ball would move. Southee remains the only right-handed bowler to have impressed in this tournament so far, in an edition where left-armers are the new Armageddon. This forms one of the three best bowling performances of any World Cup so far, and what is remarkable is the fact that his bowling partner was responsible for another one…
Trent Boult (5/27 v/s Australia)
Destroying Australia – it doesn’t get any sweeter than this. Boult steamed in at Auckland and reduced the Aussies from 80/1 to 105/9, and they had no answer to his swinging ways. He removed the top order in no time, thereby setting the stage for another all-time great bowling performance from his opposing number in the same match…
Mitchell Starc (6/28 v/s New Zealand)
Starc almost completed one of the greatest comebacks in Cup history for his team, after New Zealand were 133/4 chasing 152 in no time. His swinging Yorkers accounted for the middle order, where he bowled Southee and Milne in consecutive stunning balls, leaving Boult to play out his last two balls in order to give the strike to Williamson. Australia lost by a wicket eventually, but Starc was single-handedly responsible for a bowling master-class that will teach the Kiwis to never take small targets lightly again.
Imran Tahir (5/45 v/s West Indies)
Tahir made West Indies look even more hapless than they usually are, after ABd carted them to all parts to break all sorts of records. The leggie is easily one of the most prolific ODI spinners right now, and his accuracy has been troublesome for most middle orders in limited overs cricket. Of course, his unique pace-bowler celebrations only add to his mystique.
Mohammed Shami (4/35 v/s Pakistan)
After suffering through the tour, Shami finally produced what was expected of him against archrivals Pakistan on the game’s biggest stage. He muted their chase repeatedly with crucial wickets, and proved why he remains India’s best bet of leading the attack if they are to win anything away from home.
Shapoor Zadran (4/38 v/s Scotland)
The tall lanky left-armed Afghan star broke his back while dismissing Scotland for a moderate score, surprising them with his pace, energy and bounce throughout his spell. He then went on to play a masterful little cameo after his team were down and out while chasing, to pull Afghanistan across the line in a last-over thriller and their first ever World Cup win. He has been the story of the Associates so far.
Mitchell Marsh (5/33 v/s England)
Usually, bowling performances against England come in heaps and surprises. Marsh, who replaced Faulkner as the bowling all-rounder, made a mockery of the English middle order with plenty of teasing off-stump bowling, leading them to believe he was the weak link in the bowling attack.
Chris Gayle (215 v/s Zimbabwe)
Nobody knew what hit them, because Gayle—who hadn’t scored a 50 for more than a year, and averaged 16 in the last two years—exploded against Zimbabwe in a T20-style brutal knock that deflated the Africans. Gayle was one of three batsmen who were always expected to break the 200 barrier in ODIs, and he became the only non-Indian batsman to do so, and the first to do so on a non-Indian pitch too. The Australian capital Canberra will always remember this innings, combined with the fact that he was arguably out LBW off his first ball, until DRS made a sketchy scene of it.
AB de Villiers (162* v/s West Indies)
It came in 66 balls. ABd, the ‘freak’ of cricket, is now responsible for the fastest 50, fastest 100 and fastest 150 in ODI cricket—all against the same team (West Indies) in the space of a month. No words can do justice to AB’s sheer range and strokeplay, and unlike Gayle and others who hit down the ground without innovation and cheekiness, AB doesn’t rely solely on power. He innovates like a drunk French new-wave filmmaker on the pitch, and reads bowlers’ minds like they were enraged toddlers bowling plastic balls at him. This might go down as the greatest innings this World Cup will see.
Shikhar Dhawan (137 v/s South Africa)
At his adopted home ground of Melbourne, Dhawan confirmed that South Africa’s bowling attack weren’t totally intimidating yet, and played a skilled innings of attack and patience to take his team past 300 in a game they were expected to lose. Instead, South Africa fell to their heaviest ever ODI defeat, and were left wondering what Dhawan had between the tri-series and World Cup to change his form and confidence around so rapidly.
K. Sangakkara (117* v/s England)
No batting list can be complete without the modern-day master. Sri Lanka’s greatest player made a mockery of England’s 300+ score, and went into autopilot while giving his team a much-needed win in a tough game. He is possibly Sri Lanka’s greatest chaser, and his 23rd ODI century – his fastest (70 balls)—came hot on the heels of his 22nd.