The ICC Champions Trophy is one of the major ODI cricket tournaments, having been contested 8 times since its inception in 1998. While many great batsmen have shone in this event over the years, some outstanding bowling performances have also been produced. Here is a look at 10 of the best bowlers in champion trophy history:
Glenn McGrath (Australia)
The metronomic Australian pace spearhead Glenn McGrath stands at the pinnacle of Champions Trophy bowling achievements with 26 wickets in just 13 matches. His phenomenal average of 20.84 and miserly economy rate of 3.85 illustrate his unmatched consistency and accuracy.
McGrath’s impeccable control of line and length allowed him to throttle opposition batting lineups, even in the shorter ODI format. His unwavering ability to land the ball on a perfect length erred on the fuller side just outside off-stump rendered batsmen incapable of easily scoring runs. When combined with subtle seam and swing movement, McGrath became almost impossible to take down.
Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka)
With his bag of tricks, unique bowling action and ability to spin the ball prodigiously, Muttiah Muralitharan bamboozled opponents in ODI cricket and the Champions Trophy alike. His haul of 29 wickets from 17 Champions Trophy matches at a stunning average of 22.03 exemplifies his brilliant wicket-taking prowess.
Muralitharan’s signature off-spin delivery turning away from right-handers, coupled with his doosra spinning the other way, made him a constant threat. His fast-spinning action imparted sharp turn, often leaving batsmen clueless. This was epitomized in the 2000 Champions Trophy where Muralitharan spun a web around New Zealand with mesmerizing figures of 4/30. He set up the Kiwis with flight and drift, luring them into false shots. The big-turning off-break eventually shattered the stumps of key batsmen Chris Harris, Chris Cairns and Chris Drum to steer Sri Lanka to victory.
Chaminda Vaas (Sri Lanka)
The versatile Sri Lankan left-arm seamer Chaminda Vaas was one of the most skilled ODI bowlers of his generation and a pivotal force behind Sri Lanka’s bowling might in the Champions Trophy. His 26 wickets from 14 matches at an average of 23.34 underscore his prowess.
With masterful control of swing, seam and cutters, Vaas was a complete bowler. His expertise with the new ball was demonstrated in the 2002 Champions Trophy final where he crippled the formidable Indian top order. An unplayable inswinging yorker uprooted Ganguly’s stumps before two outswingers induced edges from Sehwag and Dravid. His sensational spell of 3/15 reduced India to 4/38, paving the way for a Sri Lankan triumph.
Shahid Afridi (Pakistan)
Shahid Afridi, renowned as Boom Boom for his daring batting, was also the useful leg-spin bowler for Pakistan. His 24 Champions Trophy wickets at an economy of 3.61 prove his value as a wicket-taking bowling option.
Afridi’s unique bowling style bamboozled batsmen. He had a quick-spinning action and bowled with a very low arm, releasing the ball almost from the height of his waist. This made it difficult for batsmen to pick his variations out of the hand.
Shane Bond (New Zealand)
The New Zealand pace spearhead Shane Bond only played 5 Champions Trophy matches but left an indelible mark by taking 18 wickets at a scarcely believable average of 8.33. His raw pace and bowling genius could dismantle even the mightiest batting lineups.
Bond’s greatest demolition job came against arch-rivals Australia in the 2002 tournament. He terrorized their star-studded batting order with scorching 150kph thunderbolts that swung both ways. An unplayable in-swinging yorker castled the stumps of Adam Gilchrist while successive outswingers found the edges of Ponting and Martyn. Bond’s sensational 6/19 remains the best bowling analysis in Champions Trophy history.
Shoaib Akhtar (Pakistan)
Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akhtar ruled the bowling charts in the early 2000s with his sheer pace and aggression. Akhtar took 18 Champions Trophy scalps in just 9 matches at an average of 17.77. His best was a fiery spell of 4/36 against England in 2004 where he terrorized their batsmen with 150+ kph thunderbolts. When on song, Akhtar was an unstoppable force.
Ashish Nehra (India)
Swing bowler Ashish Nehra makes this list thanks to his 16 Champions Trophy wickets in 12 matches. His most memorable performance came against England in the 2004 final. Nehra’s sensational spell of 6/23, including wickets of Marcus Trescothick, Vikram Solanki and Andrew Flintoff, allowed India to lift the trophy. At his peak, Nehra could be a lethal new ball operator.
Daniel Vettori (New Zealand)
Left-arm spinner Vettori completes a strong New Zealand trio on this list. In 20 Champions Trophy matches, Vettori picked up 18 wickets at an average of 25.83 thanks to his nagging accuracy. His performance of 4/18 against Sri Lanka in 2000 stood out. Overall, Vettori was a key bowler for New Zealand in ODIs for close to two decades.
Brett Lee (Australia)
The fiery Aussie speedster Lee enjoyed Champions Trophy success to go with his stellar ODI career for Australia. In 17 matches, Lee claimed 18 wickets at an average of 22.50 thanks to his sheer pace and quality. His best was 3/27 against Sri Lanka in 2002 in a Man of the Match effort. Lee gave Australia an extra edge with his blistering fast bowling.
Shane Watson (Australia)
Mr. Consistent Shane Watson is the only player apart from Glenn McGrath to have won two Champions Trophy titles (2006 and 2009). While better known for his batting, Watson was also a partnership-breaking bowler. Across 13 Champions Trophy matches, Watson claimed 15 wickets at 27.13 thanks to his nagging medium pace and swing bowling. He was a great utility player for Australia.
The Champions Trophy has seen some outstanding bowling feats over the years from many legends and quality operators. Glenn McGrath stands tall as the most successful bowler in tournament history thanks to his unwavering accuracy and world-class skills. However, fast bowlers from Pakistan and New Zealand also enjoyed great success along with the wily Sri Lankan spinners. Going forward, it will be exciting to see what new bowling stars can shine in future editions of the ICC Champions Trophy.