TELFORD VICE, Napier
DESPITE cricket’s best efforts to keep batsmen at the top of one-day food chain, something sinister is going on at the World Cup.
Morne Morkel thinks so: “Left-arm bowlers? I can’t really answer that sort of question. I don’t know. It is a different angle and a different … ja … sort of angle sort of thing.”
The question had seemed simple enough – was the bigger impact made by left-arm fast bowlers at this World Cup evidence that they were an effective deterrent against the domination of bat over ball that the evolution of the 50-over game has enforced?
As Morkel stood there, all 1.96 metres of him, SA’s most impressive and most successful bowler at the tournament – a man central to Mohammad Tauqir’s assertion that, “I was shocked that instead of hitting the wicket (SA’s fast bowlers) were trying to hit the batsmen” – after his United Arab Emirates team had been smashed and bashed in Wellington on Thursday, looked as if he would give up a lot to be able to bowl with his other arm.
That would even the odds a little, and do they ever need evening.
“It is tricky for all of us with two new, hard balls and powerplays at the end,” Morkel said. “If a team has wickets in hand they can easily score 10 an over in the last 15 if you don’t have proper control.
“It’s the sort of thing that we as bowlers are aware of. It is a red flag when you bowl your first spell and you go for seven (an over) because you know you might go for a hundred in the end.
“Poor old Jason Holder bowled seven overs for 29 and ended up going for 80 in his last spell.”
West Indies captain Holder shared the new ball against SA in Sydney on February 27 and earned a wicket and two maidens in his first three overs. He returned to concede 20 runs in two overs. But that was gentle compared to his last three overs – which cost 75 runs, thanks mostly to a rampant AB de Villiers.
“It’s important to get early wickets to put teams under pressure,” Morkel said. “You would rather sacrifice a few runs in the hope of taking a couple of wickets. It’s the gameplan every team is following at the moment.”
And left-arm quicks are an important part of that plan. Disregarding Sunday’s games, three of the top 10 wicket-takers at the World Cup bowl with the sinister arm: Australia’s Mitchell Starc, Trent Boult of New Zealand and Pakistan’s Wahab Riaz.
Starc is the tournament’s leading bowler. He also heads the pack in wickets and strike rate, and owns the best economy rate among frontline seamers.
Four years ago, the most successful fast bowler at the tournament was also a left-armer, India’s Zaheer Khan. The last time the World Cup was played in these parts, in 1992, another southpaw, Wasim Akram, took the most wickets. But they were the lone left-arm rangers in the top 10.
This time, Australia and Pakistan, who are primed with two of the most aggressive attacks around, have each let loose with three left-armers.
SA have one cack-handed quick in Wayne Parnell, but he has not played since being smacked for 85 runs in nine overs by India’s batsmen in Melbourne on February 22. To paraphrase the infamous Robson Sharuko, it looks like Parnell is not to be trusted.
For SA, it seems, right is might.