World Cup Final.
Versus possibly the greatest white ball team in history.
It’s a spell that I’ve gone back to watch, and then re-watch and then watch again one more time.
Make no mistake, Naseem Shah isn’t the kind of bowler that ignited that raw Pakistani fast bowler emotion in me during the early part of his career. Even when he got that hattrick versus Bangladesh. To me he always seemed like someone who was going to fizzle out, kind of like Mohammad Sami, with better swing and ball control.
Then he had issues with injuries. Some stress fractures. Some shoulder issues. It was all shaping up as I had sadly predicted.
But then he was back, doing absolutely filthy things like these .
Or this spell.
Srilanka took the trophy home ( deservedly ) but really, Asia Cup 2022 was Naseem Shah’s tournament. ( Sorry Mr.Hasaranga ).
The boy was now a man.
That raw talent was now almost unplayable pace and movement at times.
But the best was yet to come, and come it did, a few weeks later. Naseem’s overall figures that night read 0/30 off 4 overs. Hardly ones that you would remember if you take a static look at the figures alone. But it’s a spell you had to see to believe, because the zero in the wickets column is likely one of the greatest WTFs in T20 history.
Naseem’s first over, the second of the England innings after Shaheen had done what he does best, was nothing to write home about. In fact, it probably put Pakistan on the backfoot after Shaheen had sent Alex Hales packing.
After being given a short breather, Naseem came back to bowl his second over after Haris Rauf took Phil Salt’s wicket in typical Haris fashion. Fast, Furious, Hard Length, Gone. Fist Pumping on steroids. thank you very much.
The first ball – Length ball. Seam? Swing? Both? Butler is no where.
The second ball – 5 wide runs.
The third ball – Away movement. Back of a length. Butler misses again.
The fourth ball – Not enough Swing, but still more than enough for Butler. No run again.
The fifth ball – Scoop for Six. Butler gets the best of Naseem the first time this over.
The sixth ball – Butler beaten again. Squared up, completely.
Final ball – Butler takes a half step forward. Away movement. Beaten, again.
Little did we know that this over was only the preamble.
11th over the innings. England need 59 from 54. Stokes and Brook at the crease. Butler has been sent back to the pavilion by you know who, so he doesn’t have to face the acrimony of facing Naseem.
The first ball – Vicious bounce and pace outside the off stump. Harry Brook is in multiple shades of shock. He survives, but barely.
Haris is with Naseem giving him pointers, or was a few seconds earlier. What he said is anyone’s guess, but is it working? Hell yes.
The second ball – Brook attempts a big heave and misses it completely. The ball and the stumps continue to remain strangers.
Naseem is upping the ante. Something has to give.
The third ball – Brook finally gets hold of one, and clatters it do deep wicket where Harris dives for his life and saves a boundary. Pakistan smell blood.
The fourth ball – Exquisite, almost orgasmic movement, completely castles Stokes. He has no idea. The head shake says it all. But there’s still no wicket for Naseem.
The fifth ball – 146kph. Away movement. AGAIN. Stokes beaten. AGAIN. He can only laugh in disbelief. What sorcery is this?!
The final ball – Stokes is clueless, YET AGAIN. Squared up, the ball fizzing outside his off stump for the 3rd time in a row. Is this real life? Is this fantasy? Pakistan appeal, and lose, but that seems like a moot point over the drama that this 19 year old from Lower Dir is generating on the biggest stage in the world.
Here’s a stat : Naseem beat the Batsman 10 times in his last 12 deliveries. No, scratch that. Not beaten. Owned, at the highest possible strata of ownage.
13th over of the innings. Naseem’s last. England lost Brook is the previous over. He builds up the pressure. They swallow the wickets. Fair. Unfair? Who cares. This is turning up to be the mother of all climaxes.
The first ball – Moeen Ali hits it to the on side, and stokes slips. Almost a run out.
The second ball – One run. Stokes is back on strike next ball. Naseem is licking his lips.
The third ball – Brings it back in this time, and Stokes, crazily, gets some bat on a Naseem delivery.
The fourth ball – Off the deck, Stokes cramped. No run. Stokes defends.
The fifth ball – Full length for a change, Stokes drives but there is no run again.
The final ball – Stokes taps it to cover, and final gets a run off Naseem.
And with that it was over.
What happened either side of this spell is what will generate the headlines. In the annals of history, this will likely end up being only a byline because there have been other spells with more wickets, leading to bigger wins. But for however long our collective memories do us good, these 20 odd deliveries will encapsulate the mystique and venom of a fast bowler. A Pakistani fast bowler, from the never ending factory of Pakistani fast bowlers.
The quantity? Unlimited.
The quality? I’m insulted you have to ask.
The best part?
Naseem is only 19.
Be very, VERY afraid.