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Riaz comes of age, and how

Riaz just about pipped the seasoned Shoaib Akhtar to the XI, and with the wickets of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Zaheer Khan, he proved that he's ready to take over the mantle from the veteran pro.

india Updated: Mar 31, 2011 00:45 IST
Sanjjeev Karan Samyal

The stage was set for him. He was the local hero, the star of India's Cup campaign and having lost three early wickets, his team was in trouble. He had turned around the side's fortunes in the last four games and expectations were high. It was the moment everyone at the PCA Stadium was waiting for as Yuvraj Singh came in to a rousing reception.

But with a searing, swinging first ball, Wahab Riaz shattered the stumps and stole the star's thunder. The Pakistan left-arm pacer has been playing at the top level for almost three years now, but it was on Wednesday that he announced his arrival at the international level.

Riaz just about pipped the seasoned Shoaib Akhtar to the XI, and with the wickets of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Zaheer Khan, he proved that he's ready to take over the mantle from the veteran pro. In a dream performance, the Lahore boy returned figures of 10-0-46-5.

The pressure was on Pakistan when Riaz came on to bowl in the sixth over. Sehwag had started in his typical whirlwind style, racing to 38 off 25 balls, before Riaz stopped him in his tracks with a skidding delivery (fifth ball of his first over).

If his first spell pushed India on the back-foot, Riaz broke the home team's backbone in his second spell with a double blow in the 26th over. First, he had Kohli caught at point and then got Yuvraj off the next ball. He finished in style, claiming two more to complete a fifer while conceding just fours runs in the final over of the innings.

It has been a sensational turnaround for Wahab. The last game he played against India (June 2008, Dhaka) was a nightmare. He was taken off the attack for bowling two beamers, a result of frustration after conceding 86 runs in 9.2 overs.

With the skillful Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif around, he continued to remain on the fringes and a Cup berth looked a distant dream. However, things took a dramatic twist during last summer's controversial tour to England, where Pakistan were embroiled in the spot-fixing scandal. Aamer and Asif's ban put a lot of responsibility on Riaz, and, if there was any doubt on whether he could rise to the challenge, he proved that in Mohali.