Cricket hates a low-scoring contest. After all, it’s called a batsman’s game.
Flying stumps are pretty much about as dreadful as having a salad for a Sunday brunch.
A no-show with the bat is like missing out on a massive night out with friends.
In an age where cricket is being described more as an entertainment form first, a sport later, the site of bowlers flexing their muscles against batsmen can mean one thing and one thing alone: a low-scoring duel.
About 3 years ago, at Auckland, Australia bit a bullet as they endured a shock loss, in arguably one of the more thrilling incidents in World Cup history.
Stunned Aussies witnessed a catastrophe of sorts. A batting line-up featuring Finch, Watson, Clarke, Warner and Smith ran into a dead-end.
Thankfully, it wasn’t a quarter-final or semi clash.
They couldn’t score. No freeing of arms. No piercing of gaps. Only a major collision could’ve stopped the high-speed cruiser.
That day, Australia ran into a dead end called Trent Boult. If Australia were a sports-car on a highway then, Boult was their mechanical malfunction.
The young Kiwi, playing his maiden World Cup yorked his way to arrive at the world’s greatest stage. His brilliant 5-27 sent Aussie stumps out of the pitch, increased heartbeats and helped New Zealand scamper home with a 1-wicket win.
Brendon McCullum kissed the young left-armer’s forehead. A year later Faf Du Plessis embraced Rabada in a similar fashion. A destructive quickie is a captain’s delight.
Boult would finish the tournament playing 9 games but not before sucking the life of his opponents. He’d grab 22 wickets at an astonishing average of 16. His economy was 4.3.
Everyone wondered who was this bloke? Who was this Kiwi talking to clouds on his maiden flight?
Sir Hadlee hadn’t recommended him.
Ambrose or Walsh had probably never heard of him.
Nor did the likes of McGrath or Lee tip the media sending out a ‘watch out’ signal that Trent Boult had arrived.
Those who played him, rather misplayed him, perhaps sensed a clue that this was going to be a rattler.
Be it Amla, De Villiers, Smith or Gayle.
But it would be a misnomer to quote that Boult burst on the Cricket scene only for his World Cup eminence.
Back in 2011, making his 5-day debut at Hobart, the pacer skidded the ball, hurled bouncers and hell, even went nuts about trying to deliver the pitch-perfect yorker.
He’d finally claim a vital 3-for and removed Hussey.
But that year, when Boult burst onto the scene, New Zealand were all about batting. Guptill and Taylor had scored 650 and 561 ODI runs respectively.
The team Trent Boult made a place into looked about as different as is an evening spent sipping wine compared to a long day at work amid PowerPoint slides.
Back then, Jesse Ryder was in the middle order. Chris Martin was an active bowler. Doug Bracewell could still bowl up to 135 ks.
Trent Boult bowled every single delivery in the upper echelons of 135.
3 years hence, hitting the deck hard, the Rotorua-born had already taken 106 of his 215 Test wickets. New Zealand had in their ranks an express pacer who could harangue with batsmen minus lip-service.
He didn’t need shenanigans. He relied upon only accurate line and length.
It’s been 7 years of playing literally non- stop, spine twisting and nerve-wrecking competitive cricket for Trent Boult.
He doesn’t need to prove he’s the bowling core of Williamson’s team.
But can you imagine Tim Southee minus Trent Boult or vice-versa?
Great fast bowlers hunt in pairs they say. The honest fan- who doesn’t differentiate between the coloured jersey and the Test whites- cannot imagine the Kiwi line-up minus Boult.
He’s the less infuriated and more restrained Dennis Lillee of his times.
He’s a blooming daisy, except one that can sting like a cactus at times.
He may be a Kiwi. But he’s fleetingly fast as an Ostrich.
Darren Bravo understood this on his way to his only Test double as he fell defending a Boult scorcher. Pujara and Rahane had their toes targeted, their techniques tested when they visited Trent Boult in 2013-14.
Through his ability to rattle batsmen with swing, he’s warranted a discussion the fan may be interested to delve in.
Who are the Fab-Four bowlers today?
Would you not place Boult in a quartet including Starc, Amir, Bumrah?
No fan who fills in a stand hoping to see a mighty bat versus ball saga relishes one-upmanship.
The beauty of cricket, in an age of DRS reviews, the Doosra, mind-games and strategic timeouts still, may rest with the batsmen’s win, but not before the bowlers have their say.
Cricket reaches its peak when it’s a hand to hand combat, the bowler enforcing an error from the batsman.
Thankfully to a Virat there’s a Starc, to a Williamson there’s a Hazlewood and to a Faf, there’s a Shanon Gabriel today.
Add Trent Boult to the list and you sense cricketing being an equaliser. No more a one-sided domination of the bat.
And whether Boult has the red or the white ball in hand, there’s no easy picking for batsmen.
This is something Starc was naturally set out to do before injuries took the better of him. This is something Kemar Roach- a red ball Test specialist hasn’t done in ODIs and certainly something Boult does with about the same nagging consistency and more rapid pace than his new ball partner and close friend, Tim Southee.
When bowling full or short of good length, Trent Boult seems a rigorous Monday at work rushing in hard at batsmen, probing their technique, removing wide smiles.
That doesn’t mean he’s the hardest to score of.
Often becoming a victim of his own folly, that over-zealous flirtation with delivering the yorker, Boult often yields runs more than piling on the pressure. An economy of 8.5 an over in T20s doesn’t pay homage to his white-ball daredevilry.
But despite not having spent a decade in the sport- Trent Boult has excited the fan, united the critic and made the fraternity smile in admiration when it had gone dull following McCullum’s retirement.
Those before him- whether Dion Nash or Daryl Tuffey weren’t as quick.
Then came Shane Bond but only to recede gently.
Trent Boult is a fitting throwback to the reminder that history repeats itself.
What’s most impressive about Boult is that ever since 2013-17, he’s consistently outscored close-friend Southee on the Test Wicket’s department.
In fact, to his 46 scalps in 2013, Starc would claim 20 and to his 34 the next year, the Aussie would take 4.