As New Zealand bowled out Sri Lanka for just 102 in their Super 12 clash, it was – as ever – the two stalwarts of their bowling attack, Tim Southee and Trent Boult, who did the most damage.
Sri Lanka were chasing 168 and, after reducing New Zealand to 15-3 by the fourth over, had rapidly lost control of the game as Glenn Phillips scored a fabulous century. Sensing blood as the openers walked out to begin the chase, Southee started with four consecutive dot balls to Pathum Nissanka, finding prodigious swing with the new ball. The pressure proved too much for Nissanka, and on Southee’s fifth ball, he had a great heave across the line to a ball angling in, hitting him plumb in front on his back leg. That dismissal gave him the most T20I wickets of any bowler, moving past Shakib Al Hasan. Dhananjaya de Silva now in his sights, Southee finished with another dot ball, completing a wicket maiden.
As if the pressure wasn’t enough on the Sri Lanka top order, Boult took the ball from the other end. After Kusal Mendis was able to get Sri Lanka on the scoreboard with a boundary, a loosener, a big booming drive at a slower ball that died in the wicket gave a thin edge through to the keeper and Mendis was on his way too. Just three balls later, Dhananjaya followed, having chopped on. Simon Doull summed it up perfectly on commentary: “If it’s not Southee, it’s Boult”.
Sri Lanka were done. At 5-3, they never got back into the chase. Boult finished with four wickets, and while Southee’s first was his only scalp of the night, his four overs went for just 12 runs.
Everyone knows Southee and Boult are good bowlers. But they are rarely mentioned as players who batters will have particular plans to, or will finish at the top of the wicket-taking charts. Perhaps that’s because they don’t produce the wow-factor pace of someone like Mark Wood or Anrich Nortje, or possess the extreme swng of Mitchell Starc on bouncy Australian pitches. However, their stats speak volumes about just how good they are, especially in World Cups across formats.
In this World Cup alone, across the two matches he has played, Southee’s economy rate is the best of anyone at 2.91. Boult isn’t much further back on 4.62. No other country has two bowlers in the top ten. It’s the same story with wicket takers so far, Southee and Boult both in the top ten.
Looking at the overall picture, Boult and Southee have 49 wickets between them in T20 World Cups, Southee having played in a couple more than Boult. Of seamers who have played in at least ten T20 World Cup matches, Boult has the best economy rate of anyone at 5.81 and is the only bowler with a rate of less than six. Similarly, his strike rate is miles better than anyone else on the list at 11.3, compared to Umar Gul below him on 14.1. Tim Southee has more wickets in T20 World Cups than any other seamer playing at this tournament, Starc just one wicket below him but with a worse average, economy and strike rate.
Their success translates into the 50-over tournament as well, where Boult’s record of 39 wickets in 19 matches is particularly outrageous. His economy of 4.61 is, again, astonishing. Southee, while less potent in the 50 over format in recent years than in T20 cricket, still keeps pace with his new ball partner, having taken 34 wickets at an economy of 5.26. That both of them have two World Cup runners-up medals, and two T20 World Cup runners-up medals with no trophies, doesn’t do what they have achieved in the limited overs format justice. Although it is very New Zealand.
Still, if New Zealand are to go onto win their first limited overs winners’ World Cup medal in this tournament, they will surely have the brilliance and relentlessness of Southee and Boult to thank.
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