'Lazarus' Zampa pushes Australia towards another World Cup triumph

Zampa heads to Thursday's semi-final against South Africa as the tournament's leading wicket-taker with 22 victims

Published : 13 Nov 2023, 12:45 PM
Updated : 13 Nov 2023, 12:45 PM

Most cricketers would argue that good preparations make for good World Cup campaigns but after an injury-plagued buildup and a string of other setbacks Australia spinner Adam Zampa might have a different take.

Zampa, who heads into Thursday's semi-final against South Africa as the tournament's leading wicket-taker with 22 victims, picked up a glute injury in the one-day series against India in the leadup, which left him hobbled in Australia's opening World Cup defeats against the hosts and the Proteas.

With Ashton Agar ruled out of the tournament with a calf problem, Australia's physios were desperate to get 31-year-old Zampa, the only specialist spinner left in the squad, back to full fitness.

His next injury was self-inflected, the legspinner cutting his face open by crashing into the wall of the hotel pool in Chennai while swimming.

Remedial work on the glute injury triggered back spasms prior to the match against Sri Lanka but Zampa went out and took four wickets anyway, despite feeling woozy from "too much pain relief".

Zampa then dragged himself out of his sick-bed after suffering a fever before the Pakistan match to take another four-wicket haul and help Australia to a second win.

Dubbed 'Lazarus' by his captain Pat Cummins, Zampa has not looked back, helping Australia remain undefeated since the early South Africa loss.

His two-wicket haul against Bangladesh over the weekend saw him become his nation's most successful spinner at a 50-over World Cup, moving past Brad Hogg's previous mark of 21 wickets at the 2007 tournament in the West Indies.

Another two wickets at this World Cup would see Zampa leapfrog Muthiah Muralidaran's all-time record of 23 from a single tournament, also set in 2007.

Zampa's ODI career average of 27.69 from 164 wickets stands in contrast to his more modest average of 46.78 in 17 matches against South Africa.

But the Proteas may face a different Zampa in Kolkata to the injury-hampered one they plundered 70 runs from in Lucknow.

Australia's spin coach Daniel Vettori said he had never seen Zampa able to exert so much control over the ball.

"We all know the skills and the variations, but his ability to actually just land the ball on the spot time and time again gave most teams limited opportunities to attack him," Vettori told reporters at the weekend.

"It is all about the length of control for him, because all the other skills are there. But when you combine them with that aspect of his game as well, he's almost unplayable."