“I genuinely felt there was no-one who could play me. I felt every ball was going to get a wicket. Everything had clicked, and there’s only half a dozen times in your career that happens. The ball was swinging, it was quick and it was accurate, on the money every time”, Steven Harmison once wrote in Speed Demons while describing his scintillating seven wicket spell against the West Indies.
There is a spell in most exceptional bowler’s career – no matter what the pitch, no matter who the batsman, no matter what the field, no matter if the breeze is behind or against him – where he knows he has unmitigated power over the batsman.
Like Harmison so vehemently expressed, “no-one could play” him in that spell. It doesn’t happen always. It doesn’t happen when the bowler wants it or the team needs it. But when it happens, it blows your mind away.
The beauty of cricket is often viewed through the rose-tinted glasses of a batsman that the captivating, enticing charm of a fast bowler rampaging in with all the confidence in the World is often underestimated.
It isn’t that the crowd or an ardent cricket fan do not love watching a bowler charging in. It is just that the T20-bathed world of cricket is so used to watching marauding batsmen with their big chunks of wood smashing gigantic sixes that the goosebumps one gets while watching a fast bowler out-think a batsman is completely, mercilessly, forgotten.
But Test cricket is magical. It has this habit of roaring back to become the best format in the game of cricket whatever commotion One Day Internationals, T20s and even T10s bring.
On Sunday, the crowd at the WACA witnessed one such mesmeric moment; a moment so ravishing that its beauty can be captured in a million frames, re-watched on video a billion times and yet the magic would never really sink in unless you had watched it in real-time.
James Vince, one of the most pleasing batsmen in the England team, whatever his woes in terms of runs, appeared in sublime touch in this innings. England had lost Stoneman early but unperturbed by everything around him, Vince unleashed some exemplary shots on the front foot off Mitchell Starc. In fact, such was the zone that Vince was in that he nailed three fours off Starc in two overs.
And then the moment happened.
It was so enthralling that even if you were watching it all the while, you wished it would rewind in itself and play all over again.
Starc had already come around the wicket in his spell and was angling the ball into Vince, who was quite comfortable in defending, until the fury of the WACA, waking up from the spirit of its long-prevailing charming history, unfurled itself on poor James Vince.
Mitchell Starc steamed in from around the wicket, angled the ball into Vince, landing it right in between the hittable and short length and seamed it away from the right-hander. Vince, who had been smashing drives for fun, looked befuddled, dazed and stunned for a second. The bat came out, all in shape for a sturdy defence, looked confused, wavered mid-air but could only watch helplessly as the cherry nipped away to mess up the off-stump.
If ever there was a Jaffa of a delivery, one that generations would hail as an epic moment, this was it!
“Every ball looks like it could knock you over. It’s what Wasim Akram had when he bowled around the wicket. Even the way he runs in, it’s like he’s 7 foot 9. He’s all over you. He has a really confident and strong run-up. He’s got it tailing away and it’s the ball of the series so far”, Shane Warne quipped on commentary.
The leggie had himself bowled a delivery for the ages the first time he played in an Ashes series and this was one such moment. Terming Warne’s or Starc’s as a “ball of the century” would be unfair to a large majority of other lesser known bbowlers bowlingin lesser accomplished series’. But that it was a sight to behold cannot be argued.
— Anthony Colangelo (@AnthColangelo) December 17, 2017
The picture shows the kind of deviation. Starc achieved. Modern generation is devoid of such magical moments, especially with the art of bowling around the wicket fading (exempting Starc of course).
“If I faced that another 20 or 30 times, I think that would get me out every time.Give him some credit there and sweep it under the carpet and move on”, Vince said after the day’s play.
“We said at tea that the ones that had hit the cracks had done too much and weren’t in danger of the stumps. His angle, coming wide of the crease, the ball looked as if it looked like it was going down leg. For the right armers that perhaps start straighter, if it deviates it probably misses the stumps”, Vince added.
All it took was the look on Vince’s face after the dismissal to confirm that Starc had unleashed sorcery of the highest order. Vince wouldn’t dare look back at this dismissal and think he could have done anything different. It was just one of those balls that would have beat you anyway even if it had been practised gazillion time in the nets.
Take a bow, Mitchell Starc!
Video Credit: cricket.com.au