The likes of Mitchell Starc, the Player of the Tournament, Trent Boult, who was joint-highest wicket taker, Tim Southee, James Faulkner and a couple of spinners stole the show.
Here are the top bowling performances in the World Cup, in chronological order.
1. R Ashwin (India), 8-3-41-1 v Pakistan in Adelaide
The ICC World Cup 2015 had begun a day earlier, but as someone mentioned, ‘the tournament doesn’t quite start until India plays Pakistan’. India made 300, and Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma didn’t allow the Pakistan batting to hit out. But with Haris Sohail and Ahmed Shehzad threatening to steer the game away, Mahendra Singh Dhoni brought on R Ashwin in the 14th over. The spinner’s ability to apply pressure with his variations was immediately clear. His first over was a maiden, he conceded five in his second, and came up with a stellar wicket-maiden in the third over. Sohail was his only wicket in the game, but that was the breakthrough India needed and set it up for the rest of the bowling unit.
2. Tim Southee (New Zealand), 9-0-33-7 v England in Wellington
Until this game, it was New Zealand’s batting unit that most teams feared, but Tim Southee ensured teams would take its bowling department just as seriously. After England chose to bat, Southee came on looking fierce and sent Ian Bell and Moeen Ali packing with two stunning deliveries. Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand skipper, kept Southee on for another over where he nearly dismissed Gary Ballance, before he was taken off the attack. Back in the 27th over, he was right on the money. A wicket in his fifth over, two in the sixth, one each in the seventh and eight ensured Southee became the first New Zealand bowler to take seven wickets at a World Cup.
3. Hamid Hassan (Afghanistan), 9-0-45-3 v Sri Lanka in Dunedin
Afghanistan had suffered a 105-run loss at the hands of Bangladesh a few days earlier, but the bowling had showed discipline. Against Sri Lanka, the bowlers again offered early hope of a victory. Defending 232, Dawlat Zadran and Shapoor Zadran reduced Sri Lanka to 2 for 2 before Kumar Sangakkara and Dimuth Karunaratne attempted to resuscitate the run-chase. Then, Hamid Hassan scalped the prize wickets of Sangakkara and Karunaratne leaving them 51 for 4. He accounted for Mahela Jayawardena in the 42nd over, but, by then, Jayawardena had a century and set the game up nicely for Sri Lanka.
4. Shapoor Zadran (Afghanistan), 10-1-38-4 v Scotland in Dunedin
Until Shapoor Zadran came on, Scotland was expected to lead a late charge and set a big total after being asked to bat. Shapoor’s first four overs, although tight, did no damage. He, however, turned the tide in the 31st over. He cleaned up Matthew Cross and Josh Davey in quick time, before returning to bowl the final over. After dismissing Majid Haq in his first delivery, he conceded a mere four runs before getting rid of Alasdair Evans off the very last ball to have Scotland bowled out for 210. His four wicket haul, complemented by Dawlat Zadran’s three wickets, helped Afghanistan to its maiden World Cup victory.
5. Trent Boult (New Zealand), 10-3-27-5 v Australia in Auckland
In the highly anticipated battle of the co-hosts at the league stage, Australia elected to bat at Eden Park and had raced away to 30 without loss in just 2.1 overs when Tim Southee castled Aaron Finch with an inswinger for the breakthrough. An even 50-run stand between Shane Watson and David Warner followed but the duo departed at the same score. It wasn't until the score was 96 for 4 that Trent Boult came to the fore. In a span of three overs, he removed five Australian batsmen conceding just one run. Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh both dragged the ball back onto the stumps to give Boult his first two wickets. In his next over, the left-arm paceman removed Michael Clarke, was caught at short cover. He then returned to send back Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc. Boult's spell turned the innings on its head as Australia went from 96 for 4 to 106 for 9. It was eventually bowled out for 151.
6. Mitchell Starc (Australia), 9-0-28-6 v New Zealand in Auckland
Boult had run riot, restricting Australia to 151. Given New Zealand’s batting unit, it was going to come out on top of this trans-Tasman rivalry without a stutter, right? Wrong, because Mitchell Starc had plans of his own. New Zealand was off to a flier courtesy Brendon McCullum, but his fall opened the floodgates. Starc, who had claimed Martin Guptill as his first victim of the day, sent back Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott with the score on 79. He came back to have Luke Ronchi edge one to Brad Haddin behind the stumps. At 139 for 6, New Zealand was in serious trouble, made worse when Starc sent Adam Milne and Tim Southee’s stumps cartwheeling. Starc had one over left in his spell and could have changed the scheme of things, but Kane Williamson held his nerve to wrap things up with a wicket to spare.
7. Rubel Hossain (Bangladesh), 9.3-0-53-4 v England in Adelaide
In a match that would decide a quarter-final spot, chasing Bangladesh’s 275, England seemed to be on cruise mode. Rubel Hossain, who was regularly hitting speeds of over 145 kph, took five overs and went for some runs before breaking England’s first line of defence. He got rid of Ian Bell and sent back Eoin Morgan a couple of balls later for nought to inject Bangladesh with a sense of belief. Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes added 75 to pull things back, but Buttler’s dismissal and an unfortunate run out of Chris Jordan left them with 38 runs to get from 24 balls with two wickets to spare. Stuart Broad and Woakes kept England in before Rubel returned. He struck in his very first delivery as he slammed Broad’s stumps, and when he sent James Anderson packing in the second delivery faced, Rubel was already under a heap of his overjoyed team-mates.
8. Imran Tahir (South Africa), 8.2-0-26-4 v Sri Lanka in Sydney, first quarter-final
South Africa’s pace unit of Dale Steyn, Kyle Abbott and Morne Morkel gave it early breakthroughs against Sri Lanka, but there was still work to be done. Imran Tahir, the team’s only full-time spinner, troubled the spin experts from his first over. His first wicket came in his third, the crucial one of a well-set Lahiru Thirimanne. He then put an end to any expectations of another famous Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara partnership, having Jayawardena caught by Faf du Plessis at short midwicket. There on, Sri Lanka played him with caution, and it resulted in a couple more wickets. JP Duminy’s hat-trick at the other end too helped as South Africa made it to the semi-final.
9. Wahab Riaz (Pakistan), 9-0-54-2 v Australia in Adelaide, third quarter-final
Australia needed 214 runs to make it to the semi-finals of the ICC World Cup 2015. Wahab Riaz came on as the fourth change and gave Pakistan a crucial breakthrough by scalping David Warner with a furious short ball. The following over, Michael Clarke was at the receiving end of another short ball that he defended straight to forward short leg. Riaz’s wickets column for the rest of the game was to remain unchanged, but his intense spell to Shane Watson will be remembered as a highlight at the World Cup. His first delivery to Watson was short, fast and on the body. Watson evaded that one. The second ball was a length ball just outside off stump and Watson left it alone. What followed was a stuff of legends as a charged up Riaz dropped the ball short over and over again at over 150 kph. Watson ducked, evaded, got struck on the gloves, but soon enough he top-edged a pull straight to Rahat Ali at fine leg. It was supposed to be Riaz’s moment in the sun. Instead, Ali spilled the catch and Watson got a reprieve. Unrelenting, Riaz then managed to get Glenn Maxwell to play a short ball straight to third man, and this time Sohail Khan fumbled. Despite his heroics, it wasn’t to be for Pakistan.
10. James Faulkner (Australia), 9-1-36-3 v New Zealand in Melbourne
It was the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. Mitchell Starc had removed Brendon McCullum with a brute of a yorker, while Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson too had been sent back by Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Johnson. But New Zealand still had a heavy middle order to bank on. Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott delivered by adding 111 runs for the fourth wicket. All the pressure Australia had built was being eased. That was until Faulkner got his act together. Brought back in the 36th over, he got rid of Taylor with a slower delivery. He backed that dismissal with a fast length ball to Corey Anderson, which took the inside edge and crashed into the stumps. Faulkner had given Australia the breakthrough. Then, finally, just as Elliott was set to add more runs to the total, Faulkner brought out the back-of-the-hand slower delivery and gained an edge through to Brad Haddin, the wicketkeeper. That meant Australia needed 184 runs to win, and it was a comfortable stroll to their fifth World Cup title.