Sunil Joshi may not be remembered as one of the best spinners in limited-overs cricket or even among the top left-arm spinners. However, he still holds the record for the most economical five-wicket haul in ODIs, which still stands two decades later.
On September 26, 1999, South Africa were facing India in the quadrangular series that included Kenya and Zimbabwe. South Africa were still licking their wounds after the dramatic exit in 1999 World Cup semi-final.
South African skipper Hansie Cronje won the toss and elected to bat first. Cronje believed it was a good toss to win as Indian spinners would have wreaked havoc on a rank turner after the wear and tear of the first inning. Unfortunately for his team, the Indian spinners made the most of the conditions anyway.
Jadeja introduced Joshi into the attack in the 10th over. With an attacking field in place, the 29-year-old spinner was not afraid to flight and pitch the ball up to Herschelle Gibbs. The explosive batsman got out on the second ball edging the ball to second slip fielder Rahul Dravid, who took an excellent catch diving to his right.
Joshi then nearly got the wicket of wicketkeeper-batsman Mark Boucher in the next over. However, Boucher could not do any damage as Robin Singh sent him back to the dressing room with an excellent throw at the stumps.
With two wickets down, Boeta Dippenaar was holding up one end but Joshi’s variations were too much for the debutant opener, and he was bowled off the last ball of the 16th over trying to play a sweep shot. The 22-year-old had scored 17 runs from 53 deliveries.
Joshi then got skipper Cronje in the 22nd over. The South African captain tried to work the ball towards the leg side for a single, but it took a leading edge and carried to the silly point fielder.
#OnThisDay – 20 years, @BCCI was playing @OfficialCSA in LG Cup at Nairobi. I was fortunate to have picked my career best figures of 10-6-6-5! It is one of most cherished event for me. The wickets include Dippnear, @hershybru, Cronje, @JontyRhodes8 and @7polly7 ! pic.twitter.com/ygWsHyE3wv
— Sunil Joshi | ಸುನಿಲ್ ಜೋಶಿ (@SunilJoshi_Spin) September 26, 2019
The spinner then got the wickets of Jonty Rhodes and Shaun Pollock completing his five-wicket haul. Rhodes got out trying to play an ambitious reverse sweep, while Pollock edged the ball to the first slip fielder while trying to play a shot off the back foot.
Joshi was aided by his fellow spinners as South African batsmen continued to struggle against the turning delivery. Nikhil Chopra picked up three wickets and Vijay Bhardwaj bagged the crucial wicket of Jacques Kallis, who scored 38 runs from 110 deliveries. Eventually, South Africa were bundled out for 117 in 48 overs.
Joshi had finished his 10 over bowling spell with five wickets for six runs. Six of those overs were maidens. Apart from being the most economical fifer, it is the seventh-most economical spell in the history of ODI cricket. The six maiden overs he bowled is joint second-highest number of maiden overs in ODI cricket.
India chased down the total with ease. Sadagoppan Ramesh and Sourav Ganguly shared a 72-run stand for the first wicket. Ramesh scored 36 and Ganguly scored 38. Bhardwaj and Dravid finished the job as India won the match by eight wickets with 27.2 overs to spare.
It was to be Joshi’s only fifer in ODI cricket. Joshi represented India in 15 Tests and 69 ODIs taking 41 and 61 wickets respectively. He retired from all forms of cricket in 2012.
Currently, he is the head coach of Uttar Pradesh, who are playing in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy 2019. He has also worked with Bangladesh and Oman as their spin bowling coach. Recently, he applied for the position of India’s bowling coach as well.
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