Ahead of the 1999 World Cup in England, few people knew what a brilliant bowler Kiwi Geoff Allott was. But with prodigious late swing, his fast left arm catapulted him to the top of the wicket-taking rankings for that tournament. Now 22-year-old Tim Southee (above) could repeat the trick. Over the weekend, the great fast bowler Allan Donald, who is coaching the Kiwis, said Southee "could become the world's best swing bowler", responding to his 15 wickets at 17 in seven games. Though it might irk his fellow South African Dale Steyn to hear that, Donald is right. Just like Allott, and indeed Kiwi Simon Doull, Southee has a superb wrist-action for the outswinger. He also has a very good off-cutter, where he rolls his wrist over the ball, and an excellent slower ball. If he can add the in-swinger to his repertoire, and avoid the injuries that sadly curtailed the brilliant career of Kiwi Shane Bond, he might yet scale the heights Donald himself reached.
The mystery of the spinner lives on
Even the most venerated commentators seem destined never to understand the rudiments of spin bowling. One eminent analyst yesterday referred to Sri Lankan Rangana Herath's mystery ball, as "a 'slider' flicked out of the front of the hand". This is a conflation of categories. The "slider" (or "zooter") is the leg-spinner's delivery that skids straight on (not to be confused with the "flipper"). Herath's mystery ball is a left-handed version of the Carrom Ball flicked out by his team-mate Ajantha Mendis. More on this subject soon. For now, suffice to note that, as so often in the history of mystery, the spinner's best weapon is his opponent's ignorance.
Van Zyl choking on the choker tag
South Africa coach Corrie van Zyl said that the "choker" tag was keenly felt by his players, who lost their quarter-final to New Zealand, having lost four previous knockout World Cup games. But the Proteas' fans didn't help. "When our own fans keep reminding us of the past, it doesn't provide motivation, it just brings extra pressure," he said yesterday. I doubt it's much consolation but Wayne Rooney, who sarcastically said to camera "Nice to see your own fans booing you" after England's goalless draw against Algeria, knows how he feels.