It is not often that one gets excited by a New Zealand- England one day game. And it is not often that performances are seen in such a game that will remain in one’s memory for a long time. I woke up early in the morning today anticipating a closely fought game between the Kiwis and the Englishmen. My hopes of seeing a good game were destroyed by two men who made absolutely mockery of the contest. But there were two special performances from two cricketers whose reputation keeps on growing by the day and that made it worthwhile to get up early in the morning.
For the cricketing world, New Zealand is known as the land of Sir Richard Hadlee. Hadlee was a master of swing and seam often deceiving batsman with late movement. Tim Southee gave a display of fast bowling today morning at Wellington that would have made Hadlee proud. All the necessary ingredients of top class fast bowling- pace, late swing, accuracy and seam were on display. There were stages today during the English innings that Southee appeared unplayable. So petrified did the English batsman look in front of Southee that they appeared like rabbits caught in front of headlights. It will not be very farfetched to suggest that in the form that he was in today morning, Tim Southee would have rolled over most batting line up’s in the world.
There is nothing more pleasing in the game of cricket than watching a swing bowler torturing top quality batsman. Southee got in the act straightway in the morning dismissing Bell with a beauty and then following it up with the wicket of Moeen Ali. But it was his spell in the middle of the innings- between over’s 27 to 33 that broke the back of the English innings. Swinging the ball at pace, Southee gave a display of top class fast attacking swing bowling. In particular the way Southee dismissed James Taylor was a joy to watch. The first delivery to Taylor was a fast swinging yorker that started on off stump and went away. Taylor poked his bat at that and missed. The next delivery was a similar fast yorker, except that this one started on middle and took out the off stump before Taylor could get his bat down. In cricket parlance that delivery was a ‘jaffer’.
A procession of batsman then followed. Joss Butler came, tried to drive a fast swinging delivery and could only edge it to Ronchi behind the stumps. Chris Woakes stayed back to a fast swinging full delivery and saw his off stump knocked back. Stuart Broad was so petrified of the bowling on display that he walked away from the stumps. Southee followed him got the leading edge of his bat and the catch was taken at mid off. Steven Finn edged an outswinger to slip. From 104 for 3 England had stumbled to 117 thanks to Southee’s brilliance. Pitch the kookaburra up, swing it and get the batsman. The game made to look so simple. If ever Tim Southee produces another performance like this again, it will be worth travelling miles to go and see.
But the fun was not over. For Brendan McCullum decided that he would run salt into the English team’s wounds. At the most times McCullum is a very destructive batsman. Today he just took his batting to another level. Poor Steve Finn did not know what hit him. When he pitched it up, he was smashed over extra cover for six. When he pitched it short he was cut and pulled for six. When he bowled straighter, he was hit over long off for six. McCullum smashed seven sixes with great power; Stuart Broad was taken for 18 off his first over while Steven Finn was dispatched for 49 off two that included four consecutive sixes. Even Jimmy Anderson was not spared as McCullum scored in 77 in twenty five balls. If ever the word massacre had to be used in a cricketing context, it was today.
Although Woakes dismissed McCullum of a fulltoss, the game was over. The Kiwis wrapped up the chase in under 13 overs and New Zealand had sent a strong message to all other teams. The contest did not live up to its expectations but Southee and McCullum more than made up for it.