The advent of white-ball cricket has seen the balance of the game tilt more towards batsmen, something that is all the more evident in T20 cricket. The thrill of the shortest format of the game lies in watching batsmen plunder bowling attacks.
However, T20 cricket – and by extension the Indian Premier League – is littered with great bowling spells. Often times a bowler can single-handedly change the course of the game, whether through restricting the flow of runs or taking wickets.
With the 13th edition of the tournament set to get underway in less than a month, we look back at the ten best bowling figures in the history of the IPL.
Alzarri Joseph (6-12 vs. Sunrisers Hyderabad, April 6 2019)
The young West Indian bowler, playing his first-ever IPL game for Mumbai Indians, put in a performance that no one would forget. Batting first, MI could only score 136-7 in their 20 overs. Given the home side had the in-form opening pair of Jonny Bairstow and David Warner, the result seemed a formality. But Joseph knocked Warner’s stumps off and also got rid of Vijay Shankar and Deepak Hooda. By that time, SRH were 88-6 and an upset was very much on the cards. He then ran through the lower order and wrote his name in the IPL history books as the home side were dismissed for 96.
Sohail Tanvir (6-14 vs Chennai Super Kings, May 4 2008)
The man who held the record for the best individual spell in IPL cricket for 11 years, Tanvir was a key part of the Rajasthan Royals side that shocked everyone to win the first edition of the IPL. His unorthodox left arm pace made him hard to get away and he was always among the wickets. Never was this more evident than in this group encounter against CSK. Tanvir accounted for Stephen Fleming, Parthiv Patel and Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan before mopping up the lower order. CSK could only manage 109 in their first innings, a target RR chased down in 14.2 overs.
Adam Zampa (6-19 vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, May 10 2016)
A spell that is often forgotten largely due to the temporary nature of the Rising Pune Supergiant franchise, Zampa notched what was at that time the second 6-wicket haul in an IPL match and only the third 6-wicket haul overall. The Australian leg-spinner almost effortlessly accounted for SRH’s middle-order that included the likes of Kane Williamson, Yuvraj Singh and Moises Henriques and thanks largely to his spell, RPS managed to restrict the opposition to 137-8, a chaseable total in T20 cricket. Zampa’s heroics, however, went in vain as RPS lost a close encounter to the eventual champions that year by 4 runs.
Anil Kumble (5-5 vs Rajasthan Royals, April 18 2009)
Royal Challengers Bangalore, in their early days, were seen as a side that relied largely on older professionals who were perhaps not as in tune with the needs of T20 cricket. However, Kumble proved that an old horse could learn new tricks during the 2009 edition of the tournament. The veteran Indian spinner showed that class is indeed permanent in this group stage encounter against defending champions RR, taking 5 wickets and conceding not even a single boundary in the 3.1 overs he bowled. With Praveen Kumar and Jesse Ryder having gotten rid of the top order, Kumble effortlessly cleaned up the lower order.
Ishant Sharma (5-12 vs Kochi Tuskers Kerala, April 27 2011)
Ishant is someone who has enjoyed most of his international success in red-ball cricket but his ability to get wickets have sometimes shone through in the IPL as well. This spell, coming when he played for the Deccan Chargers, showed just how dangerous the Indian pacer could be when on song. DC had scored a modest 129-7 in their first innings but Ishant was in fine form. His five-wicket haul saw him get rid of Mahela Jayawardene, Parthiv Patel, Raiphi Gomez, Brad Hodge and Kedhar Jadhav. With Steyn also taking three wickets in the match, DC ran out winners by 55 runs.
Lasith Malinga (5-13 vs Delhi Daredevils, April 10 2011)
Malinga has been a consistent performer for the Mumbai Indians since 2009 and his ability to single-handedly change the course of a match was on full display in this encounter in New Delhi. Batting first, DD could manage only 95 as the Sri Lankan pacer was unstoppable. Malinga first got rid of Warner, cleaning up the Aussie batsman in classic fashion. He also removed Naman Ojha and Venugopal Rao just as the two looked set. In response, Mumbai took their time chasing down the target as they finished the match in 16.5 overs but the result never looked in doubt after the first innings.
Ankit Rajpoot (5-14 vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, April 26 2018)
SRH are largely considered a top-heavy side as far as batting is concerned. Therefore, when Kings XI Punjab managed to restrict them to 132 in this group stage match in 2018, there would have been plenty of confidence running through the dressing room. Rajpoot was the key player for the away side, taking 5 of 6 wickets including the likes of Kane Williamson, Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey and Mohammad Nabi. Unfortunately, his spell went in vain as KXIP could only muster 119 in the second innings, with an inspired showing from SRH’s bowling unit granting them what was a tight win.
James Faulkner (5-16 vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, May 17 2013)
Much like Rajpoot, Faulkner too has the unwanted and an unenviable distinction of taking a five-wicket haul in a losing cause. The Australian all-rounder was once one of the finest T20 players in the world, with his yorkers and slower balls making him an effective operator in the IPL. In this match, his fifer – which saw him dismiss both SRH openers Parthiv Patel and Shikhar Dhawan before cleaning up the lower order – meant that Rajasthan Royals restricted SRH to a modest total of 136. However, another top showing from the SRH bowling unit meant that RR could only post 113 in reply.
Ravindra Jadeja (5-16 vs Deccan Chargers, April 7 2012)
Jadeja is often seen as someone who, in white-ball cricket, can bowl spells quickly and economically while taking the odd wicket. However, his record in the IPL shows he is an underrated operator in terms of his wicket-taking ability as well and his ability to hit the ball long is well-known. Proof of his all-round excellence could be seen in this 2012 encounter against Deccan Chargers. Not only did he score a valuable 48 in the first innings to help Chennai Super Kings score a formidable 193-6, he then ran through the middle and lower order in spectacular fashion as DC collapsed to 119 all out.
Amit Mishra (5-17 vs Deccan Chargers, May 15 2008)
Mishra has had a long and consistent career in the IPL and his ability to trouble batsmen with his guile was evident in the early days of the tournament itself. In this group stage match against Deccan Chargers in Delhi, the away side were already up against the wall as Delhi Daredevils had scored 194-4 batting first. Any chance they had of chasing down the target vanished when Mishra removed both Shahid Afridi and Herschelle Gibbs before cleaning up the lower order and giving Delhi a well-deserved 12-run victory.