5 unsung artists of the death overs

Rakesh Hosabettu

As we know, limited overs cricket is the territory of batsmen and the bowlers are the ones who get beaten up, and now with the short boundaries, bigger bats, ball a piece at each ends have made it even harder for the bowlers. But there are some who make the batsmen think a bit before taking on them. But remember, these bowlers are not the scary ones like the Brett Lee’s or Shoiab Akthar’s or even Wahab Riaz on the other day. And they do not have a great numbers either, like the Akram’s or Murali’s or Warnie’s. But, equally effective as the above names when it comes to their department of ‘bowling at the death overs’. Here are they:

1) Adam Hollioake, England (1996-1999)

Hollioake was successful in limited overs cricket

One of the most decorated captains of the English county, Adam was a talented young Victorian(Australia) born allrounder, who made his Test debut with his younger brother Ben Hollioake in 1997 and was already a permanent member of their one day squad. Adam was a gentle medium pacer with which he operated intelligently by mixing up the in dippers, slower ones and the odd bouncers. His statistics don’t express anything about his cricketing ability.

He was known for his leadership ability which escalated him to captain the England’s one day side (in order to reduce the workload from their Test captain Mike Atherton). But when T20 made its way to England in the year 2003, we saw Adam marshalling his Surrey troupe winning the inaugural title. In those tournaments, he often bowled his quota of 4 overs where he reserved himself until the end to finish the proceedings. It was impossible for the batsmen to deal with his mind reading ability.

In 2013, to celebrate the Decennial year of the Twenty20 cup in English county, a “Dream Team of English County” was chosen by the Cricket Experts. In this team of T20 Giants, Adam Hollioake was honoured as the Captain. He was also awarded the ‘Wisden Cricketer of the Year 2004’ for his outstanding achievement in English county circuit. In his 35 ODIs for England, he took 32 wickets at the economy rate of 5.06.

Later when his younger sibling Ben passed away in a road accident, Adam gradually moved away from serious cricket. Now the former England captain is keeping himself busy as a Cage Fighter in a private wrestling league.

2) Ian Harvey, Australia (1997-2004)

Ian Harvey had a deceptive slower delivery

As a talented cricketer with allround ability, Ian Harvey was a great asset to the Australian team in finishing the one day game with both and ball. He’s one of the rarest of ODI specialists who never played a single Test for the nation. Like Adam Hollioake, stats do not speak Ian’s ability as a cricketer. Having played 73 one day internationals for Australia, he never even scored a half century nor picked a five-for. Being the country’s go to bowler at the slog overs, he bowled 60% of his overs in the last 10. He managed to pick 85 wickets at an astonishing economy rate of 4.71 which tells how well he could manage the crunch moment of the game.

The variations he possessed were quite remarkable, with a quicker one not more than 135kmph, in dippers, leg cutters, off cutters, occasional bouncers and variety of slower deliveries which includes, split finger deliveries, back off the hand, double fingered gripped ones, gentle off breaks, slower Yorkers and even slower bouncers.

The most important part of his variety was, just when he made up his mind to deliver a slower one, he always used to signal the wicketkeeper (most of the times it was Adam Gilchrist) by pulling his collar upwards before starting the run-up. This made the keeper come a fraction closer than usual. This was a prime example of the intelligence he possessed.

In 2003, when the Twenty20 Cup was played for the first time in England, Ian represented Gloucestershire and scored the first ever T20 century. He also bowled all four of his overs at the death. When he was excluded from the national squad, he joined Cape Cobras in South Africa and later in 2008 he came to the Indian Cricket League and joined the Chennai Superstars team. Here he played as an opening batsman and a finishing bowler. He was instrumental in making his team win the Inaugural T20 title and also won himself ‘player of the final’ and ‘player of the tournament’ awards.

3) Nathan Bracken, Australia (2001-2009)

Bracken was on top of the ODI rankings for a while

Nathan Bracken was a great servant for his state New South Wales, and was successful in breaking into the national side during 2001 for the ODIs. He had tough competition with his fellow counterparts like Brad Williams, Andy Bickel, Ian Harvey, Shane Lee, Michael Kasporwicz, Mitchell Johnson, Stuart Clark, Shane Harwood, Jason Gillespie etc. Only Brett Lee had already cemented his place up with one of the most accurate bowling machines in the world called ‘Glenn Mcgrath’.

Nathan Bracken was an all-round bowler, where he was able to bowl at 140kmph and move the ball in both the direction with a new ball as well as could manipulate the deliveries by mapping the batsmen’s mind. When it comes to bowling at the death, he was perhaps the able successor to Ian Harvey. Most of the time, he delivered as he would have Gilly standing up to the stumps and would give no width to the batsman to free his arms. His also used reverse swing to a good effect by bowling some accurate yorkers.

In his International career which lasted for 8 years, Nathan Bracken took 174 wickets in 116 ODIs with an excellent economy of just 4.41 He was good in the T20 format too, but eventually lost his place as he was very injury prone.

4) Kyle Mills, New Zealand (2004-2015)

Mills retired immediately after the 2015 World Cup

The tall New Zealander, who took the 2nd most wickets for his country after Daniel Vettori, was another version of Nathan Bracken! Like Nathan, Kyle Mills used to share the new ball in the seaming conditions by keeping the runs at check. But the best part of his bowling was always at the slog overs. He was New Zealand’s most dependable death bowler. With a lazy looking side on action allowing him to use the popping crease well to create different angles, Mills was very difficult to get away with. He was using reverse swing to good effect as well.

Kyle was very a good operator of the slower balls especially the slower bouncers. Having spent the most part of his career in a batsman dominated era, he picked 240 ODI wickets at an economy rate of 4.72.

Injuries troubled him right throughout his career and he was hence at times not part of the playing XI regularly.

5. Gavin Larsen, New Zealand (1990-1999)

He was a part of the ‘dibbly-dobbly-wibbly-wobbly’ trio

Another bowler of this kind hails from Wellington nicknamed ‘The Postman’, who hates to concede runs off his bowling. He came into the limelight by giving away just 14 off 6 overs against India at Dunedin in the year 1990. Larsen was a gentle medium pacer with a slow runup and made batsmen wait a long time for his delivery to reach him, and hence they had to look for ways to generate the pace to hit the ball a long way. This ability made him earn the reputation as a ‘miserly one day bowler’.

Under Martin Crowe as the captain during the initial stage of his ODI career, he had an economy rate of just 3.49 in 32 matches picking up 31 wickets. At this point of time, Larsen had a fixed role in his team; that was to get through the middle overs and finish off his quota by the 47th over. In his career spanning 121 ODIs, he rarely conceded more than 50 runs off his full quota.

He was a part of 3 consecutive World Cups (1992 to start with). During that tournament, he joined Chris Harris and Willy Watson, and became a part of the ‘dibbly-dobbly-wibbly-wobbly’ trio. This trio took Kiwis to their first taste of the World Cup Semis. And again during the 1999 edition, they again reached the top four, where he conceded just 3.46 in an over supporting the tournament’s highest wicket taker Geoff Allot. Larsen’s overall World Cup tally stands at 18 wickets at 33.27 with the best of 3/16, including an incredible 12 maiden overs.

Edited by Staff Editor


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