Trent Boult and Tim Southee have been a successful pair in Tests for New Zealand and have complemented each other with their swing and accuracy © Getty Images
With the series tied 1-1, the third Test between West Indies and New Zealand will decide the fate of the series. While the West Indian batsmen faltered in the first game, they roared back into form in the next one. Shiamak Unwalla looks at how the onus is now on the two New Zealand opening bowlers to peg back the West Indian batsmen.
When Tim Southee sets off on his run-up, he does not give the impression of a terrifying fast bowler à la Shoaib Akhtar. He doesn’t have the pinprick accuracy of Glenn McGrath. And he can’t swing it quite like James Anderson.
Trent Boult is a left-arm pacer hailing from the continent of Australia. Over the last few years, other left-arm quicks from the same continent such as Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Doug Bollinger, and Dirk Nannes have made their mark with searing pace. Boult, despite his name, is not particularly quick. He doesn’t get the ball to bounce awkwardly off a good length. He isn’t renowned for his short ball either.
And yet, these young Kiwis are possibly two of the most exciting pace bowlers in the world at the moment. What Southee lacks in grace and accuracy, he makes up for in heart and persistency. What Boult lacks in pace, he makes up for with swing. And most importantly, they are both wicket-takers; Boult has taken an impressive 86 Test wickets in only 24 games, while Southee has 119 in 33. These are not exactly groundbreaking figures, but the potential these two possess is unquestionable.
Southee rocked India with a spell of 7 for 64 in a Test match in Bangalore — traditionally known for being a peach of a batting track — in 2012 to help bowl India out for just 353 in reply to New Zealand’s 365. Had it not been for a terrific century from Virat Kohli, India would have fallen well short. He took a match haul 10 for 108 against England at Lord’s in 2013, only to see Stuart Broad usurp his performance with 7 for 44 in the last innings of the match as New Zealand crashed and burned to 68 all out chasing 239.
Boult had a memorable game against West Indies in December 2013, where he took 6 for 40 — including the wickets of Marlon Samuels, Darren Sammy, Shane Shillingford and Tino Best within six balls of each other — and and 4 for 40 to rip the heart out of the West Indian batting to help the Kiwis win the game by an innings and 73 runs.
So far in this series, both bowlers have shined in patches, but lacked the consistency. Southee was outstanding in the first innings of the first Test, getting the wickets of Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels for a duck, Denesh Ramdin and Shane Shillingford — who would go on to record the second fastest fifty in the history of Test cricket in the second innings — to finish with 4 for 19. He knocked over Gayle in the second innings as well, to put West Indies on the back foot before long.
However, after a superb first game, he could take only a solitary wicket in the second Test. Conversely, Boult took just one wicket in the first Test, but finished with 3 for 75 — including Gayle and centurion Kraigg Brathwaite — in the first innings of the second Test.
That the pair of Southee and Boult have the ability to clean out batting line-ups in unquestionable. However, they must add consistency to their otherwise impressive arsenal of pace, swing and accuracy. If they manage to fire in tandem, the West Indies could find it very difficult to keep them at bay.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)