2 December, 1995 – Last over of the third day of the third Test was bowled by Shane Warne. The batsman facing was Basit Ali. Shane Warne didn’t seem too happy with the way Basit Ali faced him. He didn’t like the fact that he offered his pads as the first line of defense. On the last ball of the day, after a prolonged discussion with Healy on whether to eat Mexican or Italian for dinner, he pitched one outside the leg stump. Basic moved his front foot to the pitch of the delivery. The sharp turn was something he didn’t account for – not on the last ball of the day. The turn was enough to beat the pad and crash into the stumps. Richie Benaud, on air, said, “You wouldn’t believe it. He has done him between his legs.”
30 March, 2004 – Moin Khan was nervous going into the final over of the day. It increased with every ball that was bowled in the over. He faced up to the final delivery of the day and was done in by a googly. That proved to be the turning point in the game as the Pakistan innings folded up soon after and they lost the game after following on
21 March, 2015 – Buttler was on 67* as Boult came on to bowl the final over of the day. It was a day of varying fortunes for the New Zealand bowlers. They started brilliantly and had England on the ropes. But England recovered well through the efforts of their middle order batsmen. Buttler looked assured for most part of the innings. As the final over approached, he seemed to have relaxed his guard a bit. The assuredness with which he approached things was missing. In the final over, he left a couple of deliveries alone, played a couple to the leg side and solidly defended one. The final delivery was one which could’ve been defended too. He didn’t. He missed it and was plumb in front.
Much talk in the lead up to the Test centred around how New Zealand players, especially the ones coming back from IPL, were going to cope the return to Test cricket. McCullum, their captain, proudly proclaimed that they were not going to rest on the achievements of the previous year – their best in Test cricket. He said that they would make the charge to the top of the tree. The first over bowled by Boult, backed his claims. He found swing immediately and on the final ball of the first over, he showed the batsmen that he could swing it both ways. Southee, on the other hand, was a bit off colour, as he found it difficult to find the movement and the swing found by Boult. He took the first wicket to fall. Henry, on debut, bowled a peach of a delivery to get rid of Bell – It pitched on the off stump and straightened just a touch, to hit the top of off. He hurried Cook into a pull and dismissed him. At the other end, Boult noticed Ballance’s to hang around on the backfoot and exploited it. He bowled one full outside the off stump, getting Ballance, on the backfoot, to drive at it. Expectedly, it found the edge and was caught at the third slip. After Cook’s dismissal, at 30/4, it seemed as if England were ripe for picking. That was when the seamers lines and lengths suffered. Mark Craig, the spinner, bowled well to Root. He had his wicket too, but the umpire, M Erasmus, found it otherwise. The seamers, probably bowling to a plan, concentrated on bowling it short to Stokes and the line, for most of his innings, was around the leg stump. The England batsmen counterattacked and the seamers wilted. With the second new ball looming, an England collapse was expected. South and Boult failed to find the swing and there was a drop in the pace as well. From the moment, Root came on to bat, the seamers weren’t as effective. The shoulders didn’t drop, but you could feel that the effort they were conjuring up wasn’t enough. Just when the crowd, England players in the dressing room and Buttler thought that they had seen the day off, Boult had enough to find a moment of inspiration. He fooled Buttler on the final delivery of the day. The wicket of the final ball speaks a lot about the mindset of the bowler. It speaks of his mental strength- the ability to keep thinking, on how to get a wicket, till the final delivery of the day. It also sends a message across to the opposition to never let their guard down. Whatever the position of the team, a wicket off the final delivery, more often than not, brings the teams to even level.
As a team, New Zealand are cut from a different cloth. They were always not like this. Not this good, not this likeable. Therefore, an insight into what changed it all for the team would be brilliant. Not for them is getting into the face of the batsmen after taking their wicket. Their celebrations are more inclined towards the joy at taking a wicket. When Moeen Ali was rushing back to the dressing room after he came to know that his team were 30/4, he was greeted with a smile by Boult and, possibly, enquiries about why he got late. There were no sledges nor stares directed at him. They learn well. After the mistakes on the first day, they came back well to clean the tail up and set the game for their batsmen. The fact that England bowlers struggled on the same pitch shows how good the New Zealand bowlers were on the first two days.
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