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Strongs starts, short careers

Cricketnext.com
Dec 13, 2011 at 04:53pm IST

New Delhi: James Pattinson, Australia’s latest pace-bowling prospect, picked up the Man-of-the-Match debut on Test debut and the Man-of-the-Series award after just two appearances. A couple weeks before that, South Africa’s Vernon Philander achieved the identical distinction. While the pair joined an elite list of bowlers who dazzled on Test debut, there is an equally significant list of bowlers who faded away after eye-catching starts to their Test careers.

Here, we take a look at a few such examples:

Saliya Ahangama

Strongs starts, short careers

James Pattinson, Australia’s latest pace-bowling prospect, picked up the Man-of-the-Series award after just two appearances. (Getty Images)

Ahangama, a Sri Lankan medium-pacer, played his first Test match a mere two weeks after making his first-class debut in 1985-86. His debut performance seemed to have justified the Sri Lankan selectors’ decision to fast-track Ahangama: with his fourth ball, he dismissed Mohammad Azharuddin, and went on to finish with a match bag of 5 for 109. A career-best 5 for 52 followed in the historic second Test in Kandy, Sri Lanka’s maiden Test win, and after three Tests Ahangama had taken 18 wickets at 19.33. However, injuries and Sri Lanka’s lack of Test cricket opportunities restricted him to those three appearances. Ahangama’s had been a meteoric rise, but as swift and sudden was his exit from the world stage.

Richard Snell

Snell, a swing bowler with an easy-on-the-eye action, was notable for taking South Africa’s first Test match wicket after readmission to international competition in 1991. In an epic encounter against West Indies, Snell was the surprise package during West Indies’ first innings as he triggered a collapse from 219 for 3 to 262 all out. With eight wickets on debut and five in his second Test as South Africa sealed a crushing win over Sri Lanka, Snell promised much for a sporting nation looking for heroes but managed to add just four caps to his name.

Mohammad Zahid

When he burst onto the international scene with 11 wickets in his debut Test against New Zealand in 1996, thereby becoming the only Pakistan bowler to take ten or more in his first appearance, Zahid was a seriously fast prospect. As a the nation’s cricket fans licked their lips at the supreme talent before them, talk of a new bowler in the mould of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis spilled over.

Alas, Zahid was unable to cope with the strains of bowling so fast – he was once rumoured to have touched 102.23 mph in a domestic game – and succumbed to a series of injuries. Though recognized as one of Pakistan’s quickest bowlers ever, Zahied represented his country in four more Tests and 11 ODIs.

Niroshan Bandaratilleke

Bandaratilleke, a left-arm spinner, had a quiet Test debut in 1997 but in his second appearance helped Sri Lanka level the series against New Zealand in Galle. Using a slow and low surface, and bowling alongside Muttiah Muralitharan, Bandaratilleke outshone his senior partner with match figures of 9 for 82 in just his second outing. Sixteen wickets in the three-Test series was an instant impact, but a loss of form meant Bandaratilleke played only seven Tests in all.

James Kirtley

Kirtley, a bowler capable of appreciable pace and an ability to swing a cricket ball, first shot to prominence in the winter of 1996-97 when, playing as an overseas professional for Mashonaland in Zimbabwe, took seven wickets against a touring England side. He was finally rewarded for his achievements on the county scene in 2003, when he was picked to play against South Africa at Trent Bridge.

Kirtley announced himself spectacularly, helping England square the series with figures of 6 for 34 to skittle South Africa for 131 chasing 202 for victory. Kirtley’s match haul of 8 for 114 duly earned him the Man-of-the-Match award, but he was unable to replicate that form for his country.

Five wickets followed in the second Test as South Africa took the lead again, and Kirtley did not feature in the decider. Overlooked initially for the subsequent tours of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, he stayed on as cover for the injured James Anderson, and ended up playing in the final two Tests in which he took six wickets while bowling purposefully.

But four Tests was as good as it for Kirtley, and he was sidelined as England’s first-choice attack of Matthew Hoggard, Steve Harmison, Simon Jones and Andrew Flintoff was reunited and went on to secure the Ashes in 2005.

Richard Johnson

Johnson was another England fast bowler whose career had been hampered by injury. He played three Tests and twice won the Man-of-the-Match awards - they were against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh - but was always on the periphery.

Frequent injuries delayed Johnson's England debut by a few years and when he finally get his first call-up, against Zimbabwe in 2003, he was adjudged Man-of-the-Match for his six-wicket haul in the first innings. Further injuries hampered his progress and Johnson played his second Test when Harmison got injured for in November 2003. Johnson picked up 9 for 93 in that match and was Man-of-the-Match again. But because of injuries, Harmison's recovery and Anderson's emergence, Johnson played just one more Test before fading away.

Jason Krejza

Krejza’s debut was one of the most bittersweet in Test history. Called up for Australia’s tour of India in October 2008 as the selectors scouered the country in search of the next Test spinner, Krejza achieved the second best figures by an Australian on Test debut. However, he also conceded more runs than anyone in their maiden Test appearance. His debut inning figures of 8 for 215, and a match haul of 12 for 358, ensured Krejza just one more Test, against South Africa in December 2008. Failing to stop the leakage of runs, Krejza was promptly dropped and has yet to play a Test since.

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