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Cricket needs a 'quick' me up!


Fast bowlersThe number one lollipop is up for grabs and the cane of destroying Test cricket strikes away at the rear ends of the South African and English teams. A one-sided series (remember when India visited England? No? It’s the IPL effect) will do no good to Test cricket’s popularity. But a keenly fought contest between two nations at their peaks will revive interest in Tests, if it hasn’t already. Two unimaginative boards have done all they could to not promote a series that requires no promotion.

Mark Boucher’s freak accident provided unprecedented PR. The top 2 teams going head to head, however, still needs to be hyped further. In cricket, there can be nothing bigger than this. It is the ‘Dark Knight Rises’ of cricket. The only difference is some punk with no other work in life cannot spoil the ending of this series, though rain could play spoil-sport. Also, the Bat-Men of this series are the fast bowlers – the men who sprint in each time and fling the red cherry, swinging it both ways (get mind out of gutter) and causing trouble for their Bane – the batsmen. The whole plot of this movie revolves around the fast bowlers from both the teams. All 6 bowlers are within the Top 15 of the ICC Test rankings for fast bowlers.

ICC Ranking No. 1 – Dale Steyn

-    He hasn’t played a lot in England. This is only his third match. But just because a lion hasn’t been out of the jungle, doesn’t mean he can’t kill a deer in the city. His out-swingers are lethal everywhere. The overcast conditions in England will only amplify the threat. Steyn bowls as fast as is humanly possible, so far. Even though he doesn’t bowl the one that swings back into the right handers, his cross-seam deliveries work as a potent surprise element. Add to that, bouncers and Yorkers at 150kmph and you’ve got yourself a weapon deadlier than James Bond.

ICC Ranking No. 3 – James Anderson

-    He has been England’s number one swing bowler for a long time now. He is in the words of ‘Mark Knopfler’, the sultan of swing. No other bowler has as much control as Jimmy Anderson does on both in-swingers as well as out. However, against the Proteas he averages 36.9 for his 30 wickets in 10 matches at home. But since 2003, when he played his first game against SA in England, he has matured into a better bowler. His Achilles heel - knowing where to bowl when the ball stops swinging.

ICC Ranking No. 5 – Vernon Philander

-    51 wickets in 7 matches. This man has taken Test cricket by surprise. He does not possess the pace of his bowling partners, but an uncanny ability to nip the ball off the deck both ways. What makes Philander dangerous is that he does not swing the ball in the air. Thus, the batsman has no clue as to which way the ball is going to nip. On unhelpful pitches he may struggle, but the pitches in England are good Samaritans. He could well be South Africa’s ‘doomsday’ weapon.

ICC Ranking No. 6 – Stuart Broad

-    'Hit the deck' type of bowler, Broad has cemented his place in the English line-up with some wicket-taking performances. Transferring his aggression into his bowling has had a tremendous effect. His contributions with the bat lower down the order are also growing in runs. A few more years of such performances and he will be England’s genuine all-rounder and not just a bowler who can bat.

ICC Ranking No. 10 – Morne Morkel

-    If you’re not afraid of a 6ft 5inches tall guy, bowling over arm at 150+kmph from a distance of 22 yards, then you haven’t played cricket or have lost the ability to experience fear. (No, that’s not a good thing.) Morne Morkel has taken 16 wickets in his 5 matches in England so far. He loves bowling to lefties as much as gossip magazines love pictures of celebrity babies. He and Dale Steyn together have formed an alliance capable of taking down any opposition.

ICC Ranking No. 14 – Tim Bresnan

-    Don’t let his appearance fool you. His ‘couldn’t hurt a fly’ face and stocky body betray his ability with the ball. Apart from the first Test, England have won all the matches he has played in. His contribution to these wins has been quite substantial. He has either provided breakthroughs with the ball or rear guard action with the bat. He has earned himself the reputation of being England’s handyman.

With such talent on display, the series is bound to be crackerjack. If it isn’t, well Christopher Nolan is a bad director; Neil Armstrong didn’t land on the moon, Michael Jackson did and Zebra skin is used to make prison uniforms.

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