Pakistan’s Wahab Riaz has picked himself up and is ready to dust West Indies down in Dubai

Ahead of the series with the West Indies, the Pakistan fast-bowler speaks with Paul Radley in Dubai about his last-but-one appearance, where he turned in the second worst bowling figures by any bowler in 3,773 ODI games that had been played to that point.
Wahab Riaz of Pakistan looks on during a net session at ICC Cricket Academy on September 19, 2016 in Dubai. Francois Nel / Getty Images
Wahab Riaz of Pakistan looks on during a net session at ICC Cricket Academy on September 19, 2016 in Dubai. Francois Nel / Getty Images

DUBAI // In his last-but-one appearance on a cricket field, Wahab Riaz had not only his own worst day, but the second worst by a bowler in the 3,773 one-day internationals that had been played to that point.

Only one person, the Australian journeyman Mick Lewis, has conceded more runs in one ODI match than the 110 Wahab did against England at the end of last month.

For a bowler considered among the fastest in the world, it was demeaning. He lost his place for the next game, and was left to stew.

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Perhaps exacerbating his aggravation, Pakistan then won in his absence. Rather than being missed, Pakistan fared far better without him.

Looking back on his nightmare in Nottingham now, Wahab can afford a vaguely anguished smile, but says it was a “heartbreaking” day out.

England totted up a world record score, and Pakistan’s fall guy admits he had a sinking feeling early in the piece.

“I felt it after Alex Hales tried to hit me over mid-off, and it went between the point fielder and third-man fielder,” Wahab said.

“I think it was a catch for me. The point fielder could have run back, and it would have been an easier catch than for Shoaib Malik, who was running in.

“I realised at that point there was a problem, and then when I got a wicket off a no-ball, I was thinking: ‘Oh no, this is going to be my bad day.’

“I had a dropped catch off Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler bowled off a no-ball, then things start getting on top of you. But the way Alex Hales played, hats off to him, he really put the pressure onto us.”

It was lucky Wahab got invited back to play in the Twenty20 international that finished Pakistan’s tour of the UK, a week after his horror show at Trent Bridge.

The left-arm fast-bowler says he has a habit of letting these things fester. Sometimes, to an unhealthy extent.

“Honestly, when you think about a day like that after it has happened, you should just try to forget about it,” he said.

“You have to carry on with the next games and think about what is coming next. But at the same time, when you haven’t performed well, especially for me, I keep it with me for four or five days continuously.

“I cannot get it out of my head. I am a totally changed person after something like that happens. I think a lot about it, criticise myself, and say to myself that it shouldn’t happen.

“When you have skills, and you’ve got pace, it shouldn’t happen to you. But it is cricket. Sometimes you perform, and sometimes you don’t.”

The fact he was back on the field seven days later, rather than fretting for the three-and-a-half weeks that have now past, was a good thing. He was able to right a few wrongs, and he did so with a vengeance.

His three wickets for 17 runs at Old Trafford set up Pakistan’s T20 thrashing of England.

“What really drives me on is, during those four or five days when it is stuck in my mind, I am getting myself more focused to perform well,” he said.

The win in Manchester provided closure for him personally, and his team had the fresh start they needed, too.

Now they have arrived in the UAE ahead of what might have been the daunting prospect of a series against the world champions West Indies with their spirits renewed.

“Our last one-day series was not good, but after winning the fifth match and the T20, our morale is very high,” Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan’s captain, said.

“Now we are confident we can win the T20 and ODI series.

“We are not over confident at all. We have prepared well and we also practised in the searing heat.

“We will try to keep the momentum gained from that win against England going into the future.”

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Published: September 22, 2016 04:00 AM


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