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Ashish Nehra- top spells from Indian cricket team’s smiling assassin

Ashish Nehra, who will announce his retirement from all forms of cricket after the T20I against New Zealand at the Feroz Shah Kotla on November 1 after playing for the Indian cricket team for 18 years, had several magical moments.

india vs australia 2017 Updated: Oct 13, 2017 13:34 IST
Devarchit Varma
Devarchit Varma
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
India vs Australia,Ashish Nehra,India national cricket team
Ashish Nehra’s spell of 6/23 in the ICC World Cup encounter against England in Durban was the stand-out performance in his 18 year international career. (Getty Images)

Ashish Nehra’s career can be summed up with this one statement. “A fast bowler who spent close to two decades in top flight cricket despite a brittle body.” The left-arm pacer, who will announce his retirement from all forms of cricket after the T20I against New Zealand at the Feroz Shah Kotla on November 1, made his debut in February 1999, and 17 Tests, 120 ODIs and 26 T2OIs later, he is set to bid adieu. He claimed 44 wickets in Tests, 157 in ODIs, and 34 in T20Is so far.

However, one spell defined Nehra’s brilliance and his career for close to 18 years. The devastating 6 for 23 against England in the ICC World Cup 2003 match in Durban will always feature at the top whenever cricket fraternity will remember him.

That spell of 6 for 23 in a World Cup match, to guiding India to their first Test win outside Indian subcontinent in 15 years (against Zimbabwe in 2000-01) and the highs of T20 cricket towards his end are some of the moments that measure his career. Inject several injury layoffs in between.

As a fast bowler Nehra was never destructive; he could move the ball off the pitch while putting it in the right areas to smother the batsmen. Barring that game against England at Johannesburg, Nehra rarely ‘ran through’ the opposition sides, but his crucial contributions were suffice to guide India to many wins. HT takes a look:

1. 6 for 23 v England in ICC 2003 World Cup

Nehra was flying that day; Five of his six dismissals were caught behind. Nehra bowled all his 10 overs on the trot, bundling England out for 168 in reply to India’s 250, producing a stunning show of seam bowling. His 6 for 23 remains the best performance by an Indian bowler in a World Cup match.

2. Helping India end the drought

With spells of 3 for 23 and 2 for 77, Nehra helped India end their 15-year drought of not winning a Test outside the Indian subcontinent. India beat Zimbabwe by eight wickets at Bulawayo.

3. 5 wickets v West Indies, 2001-02 Port of Spain Test

While two wickets came in the first and three in the second, Nehra’s contribution in India’s first win in West Indies in 25 years cannot be ignored. In the second innings, Nehra accounted for the likes of Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan to set up a 37-run win.

4. Last over hero vs Pakistan, Karachi 2004

India had notched up 349 in their first match in Pakistan in 15 years. However, the hosts had put up a great fight and they needed nine runs off the last over. Nehra delivered a magnificent over and Pakistan required six off the last ball. Memories of Javed Miandad began to make the rounds and the Pakistan crowd expected Moin Khan, the wicketkeeper to pull off a smilar heist. Nehra bowled a full toss but Pakistan could not hit a six and India had won the match by five runs to take the lead in the series.

5. 4 for 35 v Sri Lanka, ICC 2003 World Cup

The game is largely remembered for Javagal Srinath’s devastating spell, but it was Nehra who returned with the better figures. Both the Indian bowlers claimed 4 for 35, but Nehra bowled two overs less than Srinath’s nine.

6. 3 or 26 v England, NatWest Challenge 2004

Defending an ordinary total of 204, India needed a strong start and Nehra provided them exactly that. He removed England openers before Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan took over to finish the job.

7. 4 for 72 v Pakistan, 2nd ODI at Visakhapatnam

This was the game in which MS Dhoni hammered Pakistan en route his 148. Defending 356, Nehra knocked over Shahid Afridi for a duck, and went on to dismiss Salman Butt and Mohammad Yousuf to set up a 58-run victory.

8: 6 for 59 v Sri Lanka, Indian Oil Cup final 2005

Nehra did well to keep Sri Lanka below 300 but India failed to get past the finish line, falling short by 18 runs.

9: 2 for 33 v Pakistan, ICC 2011 World Cup semi-final

Nehra did not know this would be his last appearance in ODI cricket, but he strangulated Pakistan on a decent batting wicket to return with the figures of 10-0-33-2, propelling India into the final.

10: 3 for 28 v England, 2nd T20I at Nagpur 2017

Of the four times Nehra has taken a three-wicket haul in T20Is, this came against England in conditions that totally favoured the batsmen. England’s famed batting line-up was restricted to 139 for six in reply to India’s modest total of 144.

First Published: Oct 12, 2017 16:55 IST