Kuldeep’s ‘Ball of the Century’

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Remember how Shane Warne announced his arrival on the cricketing world’s stage with his ball of the century, bamboozling Mike Gatting all ends up.

Cricketing pundits believe Kuldeep Yadav produced a ball for the new century when he bowled Babar Azam during the India-Pakistan game at Old Trafford on Sunday, June 16, 2019.

‘Kuldeep Yadav picks perfect moment to deliver own ‘ball of the century’,’ declared The Times, London.

‘One of the great thrills of watching a global sporting event is the joy of witnessing the defining success of a player’s life; of pressing your nose up against the glass of a pivotal moment in another human’s existence. For the India wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, 24 and playing in his first World Cup, this had the feel of one of those days to which all the others have been building,’ wrote Times cricket writer James Gheerbrant.

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Pakistan were chasing 336 and, midway through the innings, had made it all the way to 117 for one. Their two best batsmen, Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam, were set together, 104 runs into their partnership and, while the required run rate was climbing all the time, they were ready to accelerate. India had lost one bowler, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, to a hamstring injury and for the first time all day Virat Kohli had something of the wild, wide-eyed look of a man who was beginning to feel the pressure.

Then it happened. It was India’s left-arm wrist-spinner, Kuldeep Yadav, who did it. It was a perfect delivery, the kind he must have pictured in his mind back when he was a kid dreaming about playing for India in a match like this one. It drifted across the face of Azam’s bat as though it had been blown by a sudden gust of wind, then bit on the pitch and ripped back into him, flew through the gap between his bat and pad into his middle stump. The dismissal will be replayed endlessly and, when Azam watches it back he will curse the way his feet got stuck in the crease and how his bat was sucked away from his pad.

Pakistan split apart after that as India, who had been threatening to overwhelm them all day, poured in through that one little crack. Two balls later Yadav got Zaman, caught off the top edge at short fine-leg. Then Kohli, reading the moment, brought the aggressive Hardik Pandya back into the attack. Mohammad Hafeez flicked a catch to deep square-leg and Shoaib Malik poked ineptly at his first delivery, which ricocheted into his stumps. That meant Pakistan had lost four wickets in 19 balls. Sarfaraz Ahmed struggled on before he, too, played-on off a delivery from Vijay Shankar.

As Gheerbrant noted in the Times: ‘On one spotlit day when he felt the weight of a nation and the eyes of the world, it was Kuldeep who fatally undermined Pakistan’s challenge, and summoned the moment into which he had poured a lifetime.

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