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Tim Southee: The face of New Zealand’s reformed pace battery

Tim Southee has proved himself as one of the finest swing bowlers in the world © Getty Images
Tim Southee has proved himself as one of the finest swing bowlers in the world © Getty Images

 

Born on December 11, 1988, Tim Southee is among the finest swing bowlers in world cricket. His reputation further rises with a promising record on subcontinent pitches apart from being an equally reliable death overs bowler. Abhijit Banare looks at the highlights of Southee’s young career.

 

One of the top auto search options on YouTube about Tim Southee is ‘Tim Southee bowling action’. Now, for fans to search for his bowling action  with so much vigour and enthusiasm, either he has a suspect, unusual action, or  his action is a connoisseur’s delight. Run-up, pre-delivery stride, landing of the foot, release of the ball and finally pitching it  in the ‘right areas’ are among the basic elements, which combined together determine the qualities of a successful fast bowler. Frank Tyson in ‘Talking Cricket’ spoke extensively on the elements mentioned above, and the impact it has on a bowler’s success. Southee’s action would surely confirm the high standards of biomechanics. Working on the farm land in Whangarei might just have added his ability to run in hard every single time.

 

If we turn back the pages in Southee’s career, instead of going through the hard grind of domestic cricket, Southee quickly progressed through the ranks and played for New Zealand at just 19.  In fact, by the age of 15, Southee was a successful rugby player as well — a sport which has more prominence than the gentleman’s game in New Zealand. He eventually chose the latter and made his First-Class debut for Northern Districts. It was  his splendid performances in the Under-19 World Cup in 2008 held in Malaysia, which earned him a berth in the national squad. He took 17 wickets  and ended up as man-of-the- tournament in Malaysia. His  six-for against Auckland in the Plunket Shield   helped him further to stake a claim for a New Zealand cap .

 

Tim-Southee-of-New-Zealand-in-action-during-day-two-of-1st-Investec-Test-match-between-England-1
Tim Southee during a Test Match against England © Getty Images (File Photo)

 

Debut

 

His first stint with the national team came in the two-match Twenty20 series  played against England at home, in 2008. The pacer didn’t  do remarkably well, but managed to scalp the wicket of skipper — Paul Collingwood. Things would have remained as it is if Kyle Mills had not injured his knee. There was much buzz around Southee after his U-19 World Cup outings, and the injury to Mills ahead of the third Test, allowed the youngster to exhibit his skills in whites. After being put into bowl, the pacer didn’t have to wait for long for his first scalp. Michael Vaughan, already under pressure for his dry run with the bat failed to read the ball that came straight into him, instead of swirling away and got out. Such deliveries were soon going to be Southee’s potent weapon. Soon, he had the likes of Andrew Strauss and centurion in that innings, Kevin Pietersen in trouble.

 

On the second morning, he removed Stuart Broad, the first ball of his spell and  took five-for 55  by snaring the last wicket of Ryan Sidebottom. England fought back hard in the Test, first by bundling out the Kiwis for 168 and then, presenting a fine display of second innings batting  to post a target of 553. It looked well beyond the reach of New Zealand, but Southee’s innings of 77   made up of no less than nine sixes in just 40 balls delayed England’s 2-1 victory. While the Kiwis lost, they had found a promising youngster who could serve the side for a long time.  By then, Southee had made his way into New Zealand’s One-Day International (ODI) set-up and continued to excel in T20s. More than swinging the red cheery around the corners in Test matches, his limited overs reputation as a reliable death overs bowler came to the fore.

 

The year 2010 was not that fruitful for the promising pacer, as he failed to bag enough wickets  by averaging over 50 and 130 in Tests and ODIs, respectively. But fortunes changed for the better in the following year for him.

 

 

Hat-trick against Pakistan

 

At the age of 22, Southee was already among the best pace options for New Zealand. Another glimpse of his brilliance under trying conditions further elevated his reputation in the home series against Pakistan in the year 2011.  Without a victory over 14 matches across all three formats, New Zealand desperately needed a win. Southee   produced a fine display of accurate bowling which earned him a hat-trick and New Zealand scripted a famous win. In that spell,  he decimated the Pakistan batting line-up, with a total of five wickets in a span of eight deliveries.

 

Pakistan looked on course to smash their way to victory at Eden Park with short boundaries. However, Southee started his demolition during the last ball of the sixth over he bowled, with Pakistan placed at a healthy score of 58 for one. He foxed Ahmed Shehzad with a slower delivery and the batsman just pushed at it, as the edge was caught brilliantly by Peter McGlashan. Two balls later, Younis Khan fuelled Southee’s confidence further by slashing at a short and wide delivery straight to thridman. As the batsman ambled across while the catch was taken, Mohammed Hafeez took strike. He too generously prodded at a ball pitched in the corridor of uncertainty and walked.

 

Southee, now with his tail up, ran in hard and delivered the fourth ball which pitched in line and hit Umar Akmal on the pad. He  went up with a loud appeal and umpire Barry Frost obliged by  upholding the decision to give  Southee a much deserved hat-trick. It was the second ever hat-trick by a Kiwi bowler in the shortest format of the game, Jacob Oram being the first to  do it against Sri Lanka. Southee added one more wicket to his tally in his next over by removing Abdul Razzaq, to end with figures of five for 18. It also earned him ICC T20 Bowling Performance of the Year Award. In the ODI series against the same opposition, he also added a maiden five-for at Wellington in the first ODI, which is till now his best bowling figures in the 50-over format.

 

 

However, Southee paid a  heavy price for being a young rising star, even though if it was in a country where cricket is not the most popular sport  New Zealand team boarded EK413 Emirates flight from Sydney to Dubai, before heading to India for 2011 World Cup. In that flight, Southee was accused of getting too close to a girl in the  first-class cabin, and the social media went abuzz with discussions  about Southee being a bad boy. Headlines like ‘Southee opts for mid-air leg before cricket’, hit the headlines. . The negative publicity he got added further spice to the incident. The story would have gone to dust before landing, if a passenger  hadn’t called up a local radio station and leaked out the details. New Zealand cricket team manager, Dave Currie cleared the incident and allowed the dust to settle.

 

 

2011 World Cup exploits

 

After making the headlines for non-cricketing reasons, Southee went ahead and scripted a career-defining performance by becoming the third highest wicket-taker with 17 wickets to his name in the ICC World Cup 2011. Only two bowlers took more wickets than him and they were Zaheer Khan and Shahid Afridi.  Both Zaheer and Afridi were tied with 21 wickets apiece  at the top slot. The Kiwis  punched above their weight to reach the semi-finals. Actually, it was their bowling which helped them to register crucial victories. One of Southee’s crucial performances once again came against the Pakistan in the league stage. Chasing a challenging total of 302, Southee struck thrice at the start of the innings, and along with Kyle Mills  reduced Pakistan to 45 for five. He also represented Essex in the Friends Life T20 along with fellow teammate Scott Styris, as their overseas players.

 

 

The sub-continent success in 2012

 

One of the biggest achievements of Southee’s career so far has been the fruitful run he has had in subcontinental pitches. A place where fast bowlers usually return demoralised after bowling on featherbeds, Southee turned it into an advantage with a superb swing bowling performance in Sri Lanka and a remarkable display of accuracy to trouble the Indian batsmen in 2012.

 

India: As mentioned at the start, Southee’s bowling action had all the essential elements to keep the biomechanical analysts interested. With a nagging accuracy and pace, he went on to trouble the Indians and set a new record in India in the 2nd Test at Bangalore. Using the width of the crease and utilising his skill of moving the ball late, he had the likes of Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni in trouble. All the three batsmen were beaten by a ball that was coming into them. Under the dull skies at Chinnaswamy Stadium, Southee bagged seven for 64.  New Zealand though, were whitewashed by the Indians — 2-0.

 

Sri Lanka: After a successful stint in India,  Southee along with Trent Boult tormented the Sri Lankan batsmen at home. Their phenomenal display of swing bowling had the batsmen off guard and also helped  New Zealand to register their first win in Sri Lanka since 1998. Under the guidance of Shane Bond as bowling coach and Chaminda Vaas as advisor, the New Zealand’s pace-battery delivered the goods. The video below captures Southee’s impressive five-for.

 

 

In two Tests, Southee took 12 wickets that included a five-for in the second Test, which in turn helped them to register a 167-run win over the hosts to level the series.

 

 

As mentioned earlier, Southee’s reputation as a good limited overs bowler was on the rise. He is perhaps the alter ego of Malinga in death overs. The Sri Lankan pacer with his unconventional action can hit the base of the stumps umpteen times, and makes it look rather impossible for others to achieve the same. Whereas, Southee with a fluent action can do the same which should definitely instil a belief within any pacer to replicate the same. Playing for Chennai Super Kings in the 2011 edition of Indian Premier league (IPL), he bowled a tight final over to help CSK escape with a two-run win. Even in a T20 match at Christchurch in February 2010, Southee delivered a tight final over to help New Zealand tie the game against Australia, and then went on to concede just six in the super over to script a sensational win for his team.

Tim Southee of New Zealand raises the match ball as he leaves the field to acknowledge his six wicket second innings haul during day four of 1st Investec Test match between England and New Zealand at Lord's Cricket Ground on May 19, 2013 in London, England © Getty Images
Tim Southee raises the match ball as he leaves the field to acknowledge his six-wicket second innings haul, on Day Four of 1st Test match between England and New Zealand at Lord’s May 19, 2013 © Getty Images

 

 

A ten-wicket haul at Lord’s

 

After almost defeating England in a home series, New Zealand toured England for a two-match Test series in May 2013.   It was considered as a dress rehearsal for the England side to put up a much stronger performance in the Ashes series.. The hosts managed to convincingly beat New Zealand 2-0, but Southee was yet again impressive in the first Test by bagging a ten-wicket haul at Lord’s. The England batting line-up crumbled for 232 and 213 respectively. Southee had four wickets to his name in the first innings, and got his name on the honours board with a six-for in the second innings. He was the first away bowler to take 10 wickets in a Test match at Lord’s since South Africa’s Makhaya Ntini, who achieved the feat in 2003 and the first New Zealand bowler since Dion Nash to do so.

 

. Even though Southee’s overall record doesn’t instil fear in any opposition, but the pacer is still just 24 years old and has shown enough promise to go on to become one of the best swing bowlers in the world. The consistent big performances are yet to come. The Kiwis, with players like Boult, Corey Anderson, Mitchell McClenaghan, Doug Bracewell have built a formidable pace-battery and Southee is the most experienced of the lot.

 

While he was dropped from the squad early in his career in 2009, the administrators and team management are well aware about the value Southee brings to the team which has struggled to deliver the results. If New Zealand manage to get their batsmen to play consistently, a revival of fortunes may not be far away.

 

M

W

BB

T20

31

39

5/18

ODI

72

97

5/33

Tests

27

89

7/64

 

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)

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