The Bible of cricket, Wisden announced the top 5 greatest spells of Test cricket of the 2000s on Sunday, May 17. The list includes some of the greatest bowlers of all-time.
Below is the list of TOP 5 best spells of the 2000s -
5. Shoaib Akhtar (Pakistan, 6-11 vs New Zealand)
- The fastest bowler of all-time, Shoaib Akhtar has been included in the list for his deadly spell of 6 for 11 against New Zealand at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore in 2002. Akhtar proved to be too hot to handle for the New Zealand batsmen who surrendered against the Rawalpindi Express.
From his 6 wickets, 5 of them were the stump-honing yorkers at the speed over 90mph. His spell was enough to shoot New Zealand out at just 73 runs in the first innings on a pitch where Inzamam-ul-Haq scored a triple hundred (329) and Imran Nazir a Test hundred (127) as Pakistan post a mammoth total of 643. Shoaib Akhtar did not bowl in the second innings but it was just a matter of time before Pakistan completed a massive win of an innings and 324 runs.
4. Dale Steyn (South Africa, 5-23 vs India)
- Subcontinent pitches have always been a nightmare for the pace bowlers unless there is some help for them. When South Africa toured India in 2008, everyone had thought that India would dominate the Proteas. However, Dale Steyn had some other plans. His spell of 5 for 23 in the second Test at Sardar Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad has been remembered as one of the greatest spells by a pacer in the subcontinent condition.
It was the magic of his spell that India was bowled out at just 76 in the first innings. All his 5 wickets were classic Steyn. 2 of them were of Virendra Sehwag who was coming in the match with the confidence of the triple century (319) in the first Test that ended up drawn at Nagpur, and the second wicket of Rahul Dravid. Both wickets were bowled out on nearly unplayable deliveries. Because of his spell, South Africa won the match by an innings and 90 runs. India won the third test and drawn the series. Dale Steyn was the second-highest wicket-taker after Harbhajan Singh of the 3-match series with 15 wickets.
3. Glenn McGrath (Australia, 5-53 vs England)
- In his mid-30s but still good enough to made batsmen dance on his tunes, Glenn McGrath was always been tough to pick at any stage. In the first Test of the Ashes 2005 at the Lord’s, his home away from home, clueless England surrendered against the might McGrath.
After bowling Australia out at 190 in the first innings, England was a happy side until McGrath turned their happiness into sadness with his not so pacy but swinging spell at the Home of Cricket. Apart from Kevin Pietersen's fifty, no other batsmen could do much against McGrath as England managed to score only 155 in the first innings. Australia batted well in the second innings and set a target of 419 runs for England to win. McGrath took 4 wickets in the second innings as well as the target proved to be too big for England. Australia won the opening test of the Ashes 2005 by 239 runs and go 1-0 up in the series.
2. Harbhajan Singh (India, 8-84 vs Australia)
- When the world number 1 Australia toured India in 2001, they were reasonably favorite to win the Test series, and unsurprisingly, they begin the series with an easy win of 10-wickets in Mumbai. India was under a lot of pressure to prove themselves in front of their home crowd. In the second Test at Eden Gardens that was going to be written in history books, Australia again had the upper hand at the end of the first innings of each team before VVS Laxman pulled off one of the greatest knocks of the Test cricket of all-time.
Laxman's marathon knock of 281 and his partnership with Rahul Dravid (180) of 376 for the fifth wicket proved to be a series changing moment. With the help of these two knocks, India set a target of 383 runs for Australia to win that proved too big for the Aussies to win. However, if Laxman and Dravid were the stars in batting, Harbhajan Singh had his match with the ball. He took 6-wickets in the first innings and then spun Australia with 7-wickets in the second innings as India won the match by 171 runs and level the series 1-1 before going into the third and final Test.
Both the teams were well prepared for the series decider so was Harbhajan Singh who was going to write his own script. To the start of the third Test, Australia batted fairly well with the help of Matthew Hayden's double century (203) as they got 391 in the first innings at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai. Harbhajan Singh however, was in his own zone as he took 7-wickets in the first innings. India then responded very well with the bat after the half-centuries from SS Das, S Ramesh, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, and masterclass hundred from Sachin Tendulkar (126) as India got 501 in response.
Now, the stage was set for Harbhajan Singh to show his skills once again in the series that he has already made his own. He took 8 wickets in the second innings and stopped Australia at 264. India chased the target with 2-wickets in hand and won the hard-fought series with the scoreline of 2-1. Harbhajan Singh awarded player of the series for 32 wickets in 3 matches.
1. Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka, 8-70 vs England)
- A magician who would trouble any batsman on any day and on any pitch with his spin bowling, Muttiah Muralitharan, the legend, turned out to be too hot for England to handle. In the third and final Test at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, England were chasing 325 to win the match and series.
In pursuit of 325, England was marching very well and things were looking dark and blank for Sri Lanka before Muralitharan lightened a hope for the Lankans. From 84 for none, in the space of 22 overs, Muralitharan had dismissed the entirety of England’s top six. It was some top six, too. Trescothick, Strauss, Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, and Andrew Flintoff all had no idea against Muralitharan who started to turn the things very quickly. In no time, England was reduced to 125-6 from 84-0. The remaining last 4 couldn't do much as England bowled out on 190. Sri Lanka won the match by 134 and drawn the series.
After looking at Muralitharan spinning English batsmen, Geoffrey Boycott perfectly summed up the challenge facing England’s batsmen that day at Trent Bridge by saying "I really don’t know how you score off Murali at the moment, surviving is pretty difficult”.
Muttiah Muralitharan's that spell of 8-70 has been declared the greatest Test spell of the 2000s by the Cricketers' Almanack' or the 'Bible of cricket' Wisden.