Cricket's T20 format is synonymous with big hits and feeding the crowd with sheer entertainment. However, what's often lost amid the batting bravado is the art of bowling.
Over the years, teams have duly defended moderate totals, and the bowlers have never been given their due credit. Having said that, we give you the four best bowling performances in the biggest T20 stage of all - the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.
Ajantha Mendis: 6/8 against Zimbabwe (2012)
Only a year after delivering a sumptuous match-winning spell against Australia in the shortest format of the game, Ajantha Mendis became the first and only bowler to have two six-wicket hauls in T20I cricket when he picked six wickets for a mere eight runs against Zimbabwe in the 2012 T20 World Cup.
The mystery spinner bowled two maiden overs and gave away just eight runs in the remaining two as Zimbabwe were bowled out for 100 while chasing 183.
Rangana Herath: 5/3 against New Zealand (2014)
Sri Lanka were simply unstoppable in the 2014 T20 World Cup. Despite being slotted against the likes of South Africa, New Zealand and England, the island nation topped their group before eventually lifting their first-ever T20 title.
One particular match that stood out from their campaign was their fourth group stage game against New Zealand. After being bowled out for just 119, the Lankan Lions were in dire need of a supreme bowling performance. As it turned out, a certain Rangana Herath proved out to be the man of the hour.
New Zealand had a decent start, putting on 18 without a loss after three overs. The floodgates, however, opened when Martin Guptill was run out and the Kiwis’ middle order succumbed to the bowling brilliance of Herath, who picked five wickets while conceding just three runs in his 3.3. As for New Zealand, they were bowled out for just 60 inside 16 overs.
Umar Gul: 5/6 against New Zealand (2009)
Umar Gul’s exploits in the 2009 T20 World Cup were perfectly documented when Pakistan faced New Zealand in their second Super-8 tie. Coming on the back of a defeat against eventual finalist Sri Lanka, Pakistan were under immense pressure. But after the Kiwis were reduced to 73/5 inside 13 overs, Umar Gul made sure his opponent didn't get past the 100-run mark.
Skidding through the New Zealand middle-order, the pacer picked a whopping five wickets for just six runs, maintaining an economy of 2.00 in three overs. He thus became the first bowler to take five wickets in a T20 international. Pakistan went on to win the game with 41 balls remaining.
Ahsan Malik: 5/19 against South Africa (2014)
Netherlands caused one of the biggest upsets in the 2014 edition of T20 World Cup when they defeated England by an impressive 45-run margin. And while they ended the tournament sitting at the bottom of their group in Super 10, there were several positives to take home.
In only their second game of the round, the Netherlands squared off against South Africa.
The Proteas, who were batting first, lost Quinton de Kock in the very first over but managed to steady the ship after Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis shared a 42-run stand. While they were cruising to post a mammoth total, a certain Ahsan Malik did the damage by restricting them to 145/9.
The bowler, who eventually ended his tournament as the joint-highest wicket-taker alongside Imran Tahir, picked five wickets for 19 runs, which made him only the fourth person in history to take five wickets in the T20 World Cup. Sadly for him, South Africa were able to dislodge the Netherlands for 139.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Ishara S. Kodikara, Prakash Singh