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Ashes 2021/22

Scott Boland is the real deal

Scott Boland Test
by Aadya Sharma 3 minute read

Scott Boland is all Australia can talk about right now (except Novak Djokovic, of course). Two Tests into his career, he’s showing all the makings of a real cricketing phenomenon.

“Scott Boland doesn’t wear a watch. He decides what time it is.”

“Scott Boland once beat the sun in a staring contest.”

The hyperbole-laced jokes are out for the sport’s newest hero. Until two weeks ago, he was an uncapped Test cricketer. In two Tests, Scott Michael Boland has added enough spice in a larder full of Australian Test quicks to warrant a serious discussion over its pecking order. And he is just getting started.

Right now, Boland is statistically the best bowler in the history of Test cricket – among all those with at least 10 wickets, his astounding average of 8.27 is the best. The strike rate, too, sits at a supremely impressive 23.6, the third best for all bowlers under the same qualification. It began with a debut that’s destined to be part of cricketing folklore for years – a 32-year-old playing his maiden Test in the Ashes at his home ground and returning figures of 6-7.

Boland made sure that he wasn’t dismissed as a one-Test wonder, returning to claim seven more heads in Sydney. No doubt, it’s helped that Boland’s initiation to Test cricket has come against a flattened English batting line-up, battered further in each game and gasping to stay afloat. But it should take nothing away from Boland’s own magnificence, and the promise he’s shown to stand tall against the world’s very best.

Joe Root, the top Test run-getter of 2021, and the current world No.2 batter, has been the tourists’ best bet on the batting front, but has now been dismissed thrice by Boland in two Tests. Among all bowlers since 2021, only Jasprit Bumrah has taken his wicket more times. Boland is special. You don’t skittle the world No.2, who scored a record 1,708 Test runs last year, just like that. Thrice.

And, as one sees more of him, it’s evident that, even beyond the statistical magnificence of Boland, there lies a seamer who’s currently in the form most quicks only dream of: consistently, and unerringly, hitting the right lines and length in Australian conditions. According to a CricViz tweet on day three of the SCG Test, 55 per cent of Boland’s balls in Test cricket till that point had been on a good line and length. It was the highest proportion in their 16-year database and reflective of a real phenomenon in action.

The godly numbers could and certainly would reduce to more human-like statistics when he plays more Tests. After the Test, Ricky Ponting said that there couldn’t have been better pitches than MCG and SCG to aid him in his first two Tests, adding that Jhye Richardson is still, in his eyes, a better and more skilful bowler than Boland. And it’s unclear where Boland fits in Australia’s battery of quicks when the initial hysteria dies down. He’s still racing to be fit for the Hobart Test, and no one knows what lies beyond, starting with when Josh Hazlewood returns.

For now, Boland is the protagonist of an ongoing fairytale, possibly igniting the aspirations of several younger versions of him.

“It sends a message to every medium-pacer around Australia,” Kerry O’Keeffe said on Fox Cricket commentary. “If you work to get a command of line and length and accuracy and just a little bit off the seam, you can wear a Baggy Green, you can play for your country. Even though you’re 128kph or 130kph… whatever roadblocks are in front of you, disregard them because you could be Scotty Boland.”

Build the man a statue. Maybe not already. But there’s every reason to believe that Scott Boland is really a cricketing marvel unravelling in front of us.

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