The game of cricket has seen some incredible fast bowlers who have brought laurels for their country with their stupendous bowling displays, and England's Anya Shrubsole is certainly one of them. On one hand, her retirement from international cricket on April 14 must have brought relief to innumerable batters around the world, but at the same time, there mustn't be a dry eye in the English camp.
If there was one bowler who could be synonymous with high quality inswing bowling, then it has to be Shrubsole. There is hardly any parallel that could be drawn with her ability to bamboozle batters with her inswing.
From her ODI debut for England against South Africa back in August 2008, to her last game at Christchurch in the 2022 World Cup final against Australia, Shrubsole not only emerged as a champion bowler, but also enthralled spectators with her captivating ability with the ball.
Here are her top bowling displays from across formats:
7/99 vs Australia at Perth (10-13 January, 2014)
After electing to bat on a hard and bouncy Perth wicket, England could only manage 201 runs before getting bundled out in 91.1 overs. A decent first innings batting effort from the Charlotte Edwards' side but it required a clinical bowling display to ensure that Australia do not fly away with a sizeable first innings lead.
Edwards expected the same from her bowlers. But when Shrubsole, who was only one Test match old by then, picked up a four-fer and emerged as the pick of the English Bowlers, she not only made heads turn in the Aussie camp but also made her own teammates take notice of her aptitude.
She dismissed both the Aussie openers in Elyse Villani and Meg Lanning in quick succession to peg Australia back early. In doing so, she allowed her skipper to take charge of the situation and set aggressive fields. It was her fiery spell that allowed both Kate Cross and Katherine Brunt to strangle the opposition further, as they helped England reduce Australia to 5/37 at one stage.
Shrubsole came back in for another spell and trapped Erin Osborne plumb in front, who was slowly taking the game away from England. She also castled Sarah Coyte and played a monumental role in restricting Australia to 207 runs (a frugal lead of six runs).
Her 4/51 in the first innings allowed England a shot at glory. After scoring 190 in their second innings, England asked the hosts to chase down 185 - a total that was well within the reach of the Aussie batting line-up. But it wasn't to be.
Riding on the confidence gained from her first innings' performance, Shrubsole picked up a three-wicket haul in the second innings and led her side to a memorable 61-run win. Her three-fer in the second innings included the prized scalp of allrounder Ellyse Perry, who was batting on 31 and threatening to take the game away from England.
6/46 vs India at Lord's in the 2017 World Cup Final (July 23)
Cometh the hour, cometh the champion! Although England were on a roll in the 2017 World Cup, Shrubsole was having a fairly ordinary tournament. She only had six dismissals till the final and was hurting. When Heather Knight's side was sizing up Mithali Raj's India in the final, there was hardly anything that separated both sides.
While many cricket pundits argued that England were favourites to win the title, it wasn't as heavily tilted in England's favour as was touted. India had defeated the hosts in the Group stage and had routed the then defending champions Australia in the semi-finals to book their final berth.
After getting restricted to 228/7 in 50 overs, Knight needed someone from the bowling attack to strangulate India. And guess who it turned out to be - Shrubsole. She picked up Smriti Mandhana in her very first over to get England off to a good start.
But that was not her biggest wicket for the night - which came in the 43rd over in the form of Poonam Raut. Raut was well set on 86 as India needed only 38 from 44 balls and it required an act of brilliance to end her vigil. Shrubsole bowled a well-disguised slower one to trap Raut right in front and sent her packing. She then dismissed Veda Krishnamurthy to put the mockers on India and ended up with career-best figures of 6/46 as she deservedly picked up India's last wicket and helped England win their fourth 50-overs World Cup - their third on home soil. She was also involved in a crucial run out, helping England get rid of Shikha Pandey, and was rightfully awarded the Player of the Match for her magnificent spell.
5/17 vs South Africa at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack in the 2013 World Cup
After winning the toss in a Super Six match, England skipper Charlotte Edwards elected to field first and gave her bowlers a chance to exploit the moisture on the wicket in a day game at the Barabati Stadium. Before the South African batters could even assess the conditions, they were hit by a storm- the Shrubsole storm.
She engulfed the South African top-order in a jiffy as the Proteas were unable to deal with her indomitable inswingers. Four out of her five wickets were either bowled or LBW as she dismissed the first five batters to complete her maiden five-wicket haul in ODIs. Her sensational bowling effort helped England restrict the Proteas to a mere 77 runs. England eventually won the game by seven wickets.
3/ 24 vs Australia at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai in the 2013 World Cup
A crucial Super Six game at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai saw arch-rivals England and Australia go hell for leather against each other. England won the toss again and Edwards tossed the ball to Shrubsole and she didn't disappoint either.
She dismissed Rachael Haynes to provide her side with the first breakthrough. Three balls later she produced an absolute jaffa and sent Jess Duffin's middle pole for a walk with her trademark inswinging delivery. The delivery swung back miles into Duffin who couldn't bring her bat down in time and had her timber disturbed.
In Meg Lanning, she picked up her third wicket and had Australia tottering at 4/27 inside ten overs, with the top three dismissals to her credit. Australia eventually folded for 147 in 44.4 overs, with Shrubsole ending up with the best bowling figures by a bowler in the match. Although England fell short by two runs in the pursuit of 148, Shrubsole again showed her prowess with the ball.
5/11 vs New Zealand at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington in February, 2012
When Shrubsole is breathing fire, you better stay at the non-striker's end, because she makes life relentlessly difficult for batters at the striker end. And the White Ferns' batters learnt it the hard way on February 17, 2012. She started off in her trademark style and got rid of both the openers, Sara McGlashan and Suzie Bates, as her inswingers cannoned into their woodwork. She dismissed Katie Perkins with another unplayable inswinger which outdid the batter and toppled her bails.
Shrubsole outwitted Katey Martin and Morna Nielsen to grab two more scalps and pick up her first and only five-wicket haul in T20Is. Her phenomenal bowling show helped England regulate New Zealand to 80/9 in 20 overs. England went on to win the game by six wickets and eventually claimed the five-match series 4-0.
3/6 vs India at the Sylhet Stadium in Sylhet in the ICC World T20 2014
The ICC World T20 2014 saw Shrubsole claim 13 wickets and bag home the Player of the Tournament award in spin-friendly conditions. Shrubsole had a dream run throughout the tournament as she picked up two three-fers and was able to make early inroads for England in the event. One of those three-fers came against India in a Group-B match when both sides locked horns with each other.
Her unrelenting bowling performance made India skipper Mithali Raj regret her decision to bat first. She dismissed Mandhana yet again as the southpaw fell for just one. Though she didn't dismiss any other prolific batter from the Indian batting order, her unremitting line and length made the Indian batters seek a reprieve. She just gave away six runs in her quota of four overs and claimed the Player of the Match award as England eased past India by five wickets.
3/11 vs South Africa at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in St Lucia in the ICC World T20 2018
The game has seen many bowlers who have dominated the sport for years but not everyone ends up with a hat-trick at the end of their careers. But Shrubsole also achieved that feat. When England were playing South Africa at Gros Islet in a Group-A match, there was all to play for as both sides wanted to outmaneuver each other. England attacked with their spin trio of Kristie Gordon, Lindsey Smith, and Sophie Ecclestone and they bagged three wickets to derail South Africa's batting efforts. Allrounder Nat Sciver also bagged a three-fer to make life miserable for the Proteas.
But the best display for England with the ball didn't come until the 20th over. With Shrubsole standing at the top of her bowling mark at the beginning of the 20th over, all South Africa wanted was to tame her. But then Shrubsole had other plans - plans to humble the Proteas.
The astute brilliance of Shrubsole was on display in the 20th over. Having the realisation that the wicket had hardly any lateral movement for the seamers, she ran her fingers on the ball to first dislodge Shabnim Ismail's bails (at 97 km/hr) and then to induce a mistimed heave from Masabata Klaas (98 km/hr), which was safely pouched by Tammy Beaumont at point.
What followed was another smart move as she bowled a faster delivery at 105 kph to rattle Yolani Fourie's stumps and complete a hat-trick. Riding on her dream hat-trick, England trounced South Africa by seven wickets.