On the eve of the World Cup semifinal match between India and Pakistan, one line of thought was that it would be better to play Shoaib Akhtar and not Wahab Riaz in the all-important game. Being a big match it was reckoned that Akhtar with his rich experience would be a better bet than the callow Riaz who could crumble under the pressure of a high octane tension-packed encounter.
It wasn't the young left arm seam bowler's first game against India. He had played against them in the Kitply Cup match at Dhaka nearly two years ago when he had been slammed for 86 runs from 9.2 overs even if he had the wickets of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag in successive overs to show for his pains.
Still with Akhtar not fully fit, the team management had no option but to go with Riaz and the 25-year-old strongly built pace bowler exceeded all expectations with a five-wicket haul and doing his best to restrict the star-studded Indian batting line-up. He in fact struck straightaway by having a rampaging Sehwag leg before.
But his best moment came during his second spell when he dismissed Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh with successive deliveries, the ball that cleaned up the latter being a little gem. Coming back for a third spell he had MS Dhoni leg before and in the last over of the innings made it a five-for by having Zaheer Khan caught behind.
With pace spearhead Umar Gul having an off day, it was left to Riaz to shoulder the responsibility and he rose to the occasion with a stout-hearted performance that was marked by pace, movement and hostility. He displayed the fast bowler's armoury - devastating yorkers, deceptive slower deliveries, mean bouncers - in no uncertain terms in registering the best figures (five for 46) by a Pakistani bowler against India in the World Cup as well as his maiden five-wicket haul in ODIs. One is sure it will not be his last.
Image: Pakistan's Wahab Riaz celebrates the dismissal of India's captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, not seen, during the Cricket World Cup semifinal match between Pakistan and India in Mohali, India, Wednesday, March 30, 2011.
Full Coverage: World Cup 2011