From subtle changes of pace to slinging yorkers and bamboozling spin, we pick ten stellar bowling performances of the year.
Tim Southee – 5 for 33, 1st ODI, Wellington
On a drop-in pitch at the Westpac Stadium, Tim Southee took 5 for 33 to rip through a Pakistan line-up whose techniques were ruthlessly exposed. Moving the ball exaggeratedly with incisive swing and seam, Southee grabbed five wickets to bowl the visitors out inside 38 overs and leave New Zealand to overhaul a modest 124 in belligerent manner.
Three Pakistanis were out on a duck while most of them failed to enter into double figures. Mohammad Hafeez was the first to go for a nine-ball duck, undone by a lovely outswinger. Then it was Kamran Akmal's turn to perish, the result of a testing spell of away-moving deliveries. A clueless Asad Shafiq fell to the incoming delivery as Southee produced the sucker ball, while Shahid Afridi was undone by one that pitched shorter and reared up. Southee's fifth wicket was that of the top-scorer Misbah-ul-Haq (50), who was last out to an offcutter that clipped his thigh and hit the stumps.
His figures were the best for a New Zealand bowler in ODIs against Pakistan and helped the Kiwis end an 11-match losing run in the 50-over format.
Munaf Patel – 4 for 29, 2nd ODI, Johannesburg
After a huge defeat at Kingsmead, India rallied back to level the five-match series at The Wanderers thanks to an ice-cool bowling effort from Munaf Patel. In tough conditions, India had been bowled out for 190 and South Africa appeared in control of their chase at 152 for 4 after 32 overs. Then Munaf entered.
Graeme Smith, the captain, had been leading the chase with a half-century but his wicket to the first ball of the 33rd over cued a manic South African collapse. With his first ball, Munaf dislodged Smith for 77, bowled off an inside edge attempting to drive a delivery that straightened. Immediately Smith sunk to his knees and stayed there as the Indians celebrated.
The home team proceeded to stumble to 187 for 8 after 42 overs, but with four runs required from 48 overs Munaf was called on. In excruciating tenseness, he clinched the game with two wickets in the 43rd over, when the hosts were just a shot away from victory. Three runs away from a win Morne Morkel slashed one straight to Yusuf Pathan at point and, off the last ball of the over, Wayne Parnell cut to Yuvraj Singh. India had clinched an improbable win, and Munaf was right in the thick of things.
Lasith Malinga – 6 for 38, World Cup, Hambantota
Having missed the start of the World Cup, Lasith Malinga burst into the limelight with 6 for 38 against Kenya, including an unprecedented second World Cup hat-trick with an exhibition of yorker-on-demand bowling that flattened the minnows. The wild-haired slinger set the tone with a vicious yorker in his first spell, snapping a stubborn partnership in his second, and then ripping the lower order out in a devastating burst in his third.
Malinga took out Seren Waters with a searing yorker in his first spell, then returned to snap a fifty-run stand by bowling Collins Obuya with another toe-crusher that curled under the bat. From 102 for 3 in the 32nd over, the innings gave way in stunning manner.
From 128 for 6, Malinga shattered the stumps with four fast, curving, deliciously full deliveries as four wickets fell for five runs. It was devastating stuff. Tanmay Mishra limped off after a yorker crashed into his boot, Peter Ondongo didn’t even spot the shooting yorker that flattened middle stump, and Shem Ngoche became Malinga's hat-trick victim with a similarly unplayable delivery. The final wicket came in identical manner as Malinga speared a fast yorker under Elijah Otieno's bat.
Shahid Afridi – 4 for 34, World Cup, Colombo
Shahid Afridi's bag of tricks undid Sri Lanka's chase of 278 and set up a tremendous win in Colombo. Tillakaratne Dilshan had begun sedately but appeared on the verge of exploding when the Pakistan captain brought himself on for the 18th over.
First up, he fooled Dilshan with a ball that spun past the bat and darted into the stumps. Then he slowed the pace and drifted it away from Thilan Samaraweera, who hurried out of his crease to a legbreak and was stumped. With those two strikes Sri Lanka's lower middle order had been exposed, and Afridi flummoxed them with a nagging, asphyxiating line. Kumar Sangakkara was lured into charging out of his crease while Angelo Matthews' mad dash resulted in a similar catch to long-off.
Afridi's four massive wickets spun Pakistan to victory, and consigned Sri Lanka to a rare home defeat.
Jacob Oram – 4 for 39, World Cup quarter-final, Mirpur
Having played brave, attractive cricket all tournament, South Africa stumbled when it most mattered. Yet again, in a knock-out situation, they combined to choke after restricing New Zealand to 221. From the comfort of 108 for 2, with Jacques Kallis well set on 47, they choked.
The man who turned the tide was Jacob Oram, who held onto a catch off Kallis just inside the ropes. Suddenly he was all over the South Africans, taking the ball after the wicket of JP Duminy. Offering little to work with, Oram plugged away on a length as the choke set in.
He then came back and pegged back Johan Botha's off stump with his fourth ball and then after the mandatory ball change after 34 overs, pitched it up to draw a loose drive from Robin Peterson. Faf du Plesssis went for his strokes as the pressure mounted, but Oram extracted him to grab his fourth wicket. South Africa had been shellacked, with Oram the deserved Man of the Match.
Wahab Riaz – 5 for 46, World Cup semi-final, Mohali
It was a shame for Pakistan that their best spell of the tournament came on a day when their players floundered to exit the stage against arch-rivals India. Left-arm quick Wahab Riaz, persisted with ahead of Shoaib Akhtar, dented the home team's charge repeatedly with wicked reverse-swing in a career-best 5 for 46, but the Pakistan batsman let him down.
Called on to bowl in the sixth over, after Virender Sehwag had looted Pakistan’s spearhead Umar Gul, Riaz struck immediately, skidding one off a length into Sehwag's pads to halt India's impetus. Then, after Virat Kohli had threatened to run away with the innings, Riaz was turned to and struck two telling blows. First he got Kohli to steer to point and then splayed Yuvraj Singh's stumps first ball with a nasty inswinger. The elation made way for more frustration as Kamran Akmal dropped a thick outside edge and Umar Akmal muffed a chance at mid-on, but Riaz returned for a final fling and extracted MS Dhoni promptly, who was clueless against another skidder that hit the stumps.
Riaz got his fifth in the final over, and his efforts kept India at least 30 short of the score Sehwag and the catching had set them up for. It, however, wasn't enough to break Pakistan's World Cup jinx against them.
Mitchell Johnson – 6 for 31, 1st ODI, Pallekele
A career-best effort from Mitchell Johnson bowled Australia to a big victory in the first match of the ODI series. Johnson struck in his first over when he had Mahela Jayawardene caught behind for 3 chasing a full delivery angled across him, and then had Sangakkara caught in the covers off a well-disguised slower ball.
Jeevan Mendis fell at 112 for 6, beaten by a quick yorker from over the stumps that snuck past his bat and clattered the stumps. Five runs later, it was Mathews who exited when he charged down the track and picked out mid-off. In a seven-over spell Johnson had ripped the heart out of the Sri Lankan line-up.
Sri Lanka were struggling at 117 for 7 following Johnson's four-wicket burst before Suraj Randiv and Nuwan Kulasekara put on 60 runs for the eighth wicket. However, Johnson returned and ended Sri Lanka's resistance when he had Randiv caught in the deep and then bowled Ajantha Mendis in his ninth over.
Brian Vitori – 5 for 30, 1st ODI, Harare
On his ODI debut, left-arm seamer Brian Vitori rocked Bangladesh and responded splendidly to Tamim Iqbal's terming him "ordinary" during Zimbabwe's Test win the week before.
With his 22nd delivery, Vitori removed Tamim with a short-of-a-length ball that was mishit to mid-on for his maiden ODI wicket. In his sixth over, having worked Shahriar Nafees over with his angle, Vitori snuck one through bat and pad to take out the batsman’s leg stump. He was on a roll, and next got Mohammad Ashraful to top-edge a pull to fine leg. Then Vitori removed Imrul Kayes, another left-hander, lbw with one that pitched and straightened. The wicket of Shafiul Islam made Vitori the first Zimbabwe bowler to take a five-for on debut.
Bangladesh had been bowled out for 184, and Zimbabwe's win spurred them on to take the ODI series.
Shahid Afridi – 5 for 35, 4th ODI, Shahjah
After another superb outing in 2011, in which he followed an innings of 75 with 5 for 35 – his third five-wicket haul of the year – to become the only cricketer to score a fifty and take five wickets in an ODI twice, Afridi said he had a "point to prove". He was referring to his critics who questioned his coming out of another conditional retirement; after Afridi helped Pakistan to a 26-run win in a low-scoring contest there were probably few left to criticize him.
If his effort with the bat, which came with Pakistan in disarray at 71 for 5 in the 24th over, was instrumental in driving the team to a defendable 200, Afridi's bowling on a slow pitch was massive in turning the tide.
Sri Lanka were cruising towards the target, having reached 155 for 3 in the 38th over, with Sangakkara and Jayawardene batting fluently. Afridi began Pakistan's fightback by bowling Sangakkara for 58 with one that spun back and beat a booming drive, and that set in the panic. Jayawardene fell for 55, also playing a drive and scooping to short cover, and then Afridi ripped through the lower order to complete a five-wicket haul. When Thisara Perera skied the ball and was caught by Umar Akmal in the 46th over, Sri Lanka had lost seven wickets for 19 runs to be dismissed for 174.
Morne Morkel – 4 for 22, 2nd ODI, Port Elizabeth
Morkel was outstanding with the ball as South Africa leveled the series with a thumping 80-run in at St George's Park. The hosts had been driven to 303 thanks to a series of clutch innings, and Australia struggled after Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke were dismissed on a surface that slowed during the course of the match.
Morkel set the ball rolling with the wicket of Clarke with a pitched up delivery that the Aussie skipper nicked to slip and at 37 for 2 the innings started to unravel. Bowling quick and with a lovely line, Morkel removed top-scorer David Warner (74) with a ball that got big on the opener, whose attempted pull resulted in a top edge to Mark Boucher.
Next to go was Steven Smith, caught at long-on at 175 for 6, almost as soon as Morkel returned to bowl the 39th over. A maiden over followed as Morkel applied the stranglehold, and he then bowled a one-run 45th over as a third spell began. Morkel's final over, the 47th, yielded just three runs for the wicket of Doug Bollinger who lobbed to cover. In 10 overs, Morkel had grabbed 4 for 22 to seal Australia’s fate.