There are few things more heartening in cricket than seeing an oft overlooked player take centre stage. Trent Boult took six wickets in the English innings. It was the first time he has taken such a brace in a test match. He deserves this success, as he has performed consistently without ever being fully rewarded. Perhaps now he will be seen by the public as the integral part of the bowling attack that he is, and has been since his debut.
Part of the image problem for Boult is that he slipped onto the scene at a time when other bowlers were making noise. Most of his tests have been played with Tim Southee, another young swing bowler with a bright future. Southee came into the Black Caps setup first, and is widely considered by fans to be the sort of player who can break a game open. He is, though those performances are reasonably few and far between. There was his first test, his incredible performances over the past 6 months, and very little else. Boult on the other hand is always good for a few wickets, and generally bowls in a much tighter and more economical way. His average, strike rate and economy rate are better than Southee’s. His public profile though is comparatively extremely low. Somehow he is also about 15 places lower on the test bowling rankings.
That might now change. It was magnificent to see Boult raise the ball in the air after his 5th wicket, and hear the crowd acknowledge his performance. Two balls later, he snared another wicket. The applause when he strode back to fine leg was deafening. It isn’t often that you get the chance to be at a ground where a player announces their talent to the world, and those who were there today knew they had seen a spectacular breakout performance.
His wickets in the afternoon came at a crucial time. After being battered by Broad, he enticed a rash lofted drive to cover point. In came Finn, an obdurate battler who had denied New Zealand for hours already in this series. Boult made short work of him, using his abilities to swing the 2nd new ball to entice an edge. Anderson followed soon after, undone by aggressive pace and bounce. Yesterday, his wickets came at an equally crucial times. Cook and Trott both fell near the end of the day, giving New Zealand a chance to push for a big lead.
This display from Boult has come at a crucial time for New Zealand cricket. The series is poised at 0-0. A win against the second best team in the world would be a huge boost. If the Black Caps do pull it off, it will be in no small part to Boult. He has been a part of previous victories. Boult took 4 valuable wickets in the Hobart win, including 3-29 in the first innings. 7 more wickets came in the Colombo win against Sri Lanka. Each time, another bowler stole the limelight with an even better performance. This time though, Boult’s consistency has been rewarded with a starring role. He deserves it.