Boy wonder bats away the kudos

Last updated 09:56 24/03/2008

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Tim Southee has made the most impressive debut by a New Zealand bowler since Bruce Taylor wrote himself into the record books with a century and five wickets against India in 1964.

With scuttling legs, a high arm and a nicely cocked wrist, the son of a Northland farmer took the crowd on a journey and doubtless those at home too.

It was hard to believe he was a novice, the end-of-day press conference the first giveaway.

Up till then, if he was a nervous wreck, he hid it well. The 19-year- old's wickets came with the new ball, the second new ball and with fresh legs early yesterday. In between times he displayed control, composure, consistent speed and his main asset, swing.

We tend to like our bowlers quick these days, but a lively swinger will have plenty of good days as the likes of Simon Doull, Damien Fleming and James Anderson have proved.

Not that Southee is any slouch – he consistently registers 132-133kmh while his effort ball clocked 137kmh.

The only unhappy ones were the photographers. There were no fist-pumps or leaps into the air from Southee at his first wicket nor was there one at his fifth, when he became the sixth Kiwi to take five wickets on debut. Even when he left McLean Park to a standing ovation yesterday, he kept his emotions bottled up.

Perhaps he already realises tougher days lie in wait, when the ball doesn't swing, when injuries creep in or when the Indians carve you up on the sub-continent.

Still, it is pretty clear egos are frowned upon where Southee comes from.

Dennis Lillee cast an eye over Southee last year at a bowling clinic in Chennai and told a support coach he was "the best 18-year-old I've seen since [Glenn] McGrath".

Southee was typically unfazed when asked if such high praise raised the pressure bar.

"A lot of people have said a lot of things and unless you perform you don't go anywhere," he said.

The national selectors deserve a pat on the back for having the nerve to pick him, even if his spot in the playing XI was due to an injury to Kyle Mills.

Amid all the highs and lows of this series, two young stars have emerged in Southee and Stuart Broad. Their rivalry in future years could be worth getting up in the middle of the night for.

Southee's figures were the best by a New Zealand bowler at McLean Park, eclipsing Danny Morrison's 5-98 against India in 1990.

Southee said he was shaking, despite his calm exterior. "The first over there were a few nerves there, but to get a wicket under my belt early relieved a bit of pressure and I went from there.

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"It would be pretty hard to go out there and pretend to be blank. The noise and the atmosphere was amazing and I soaked it up and enjoyed it."

Southee admits the past two months, which have comprised a test debut, a Twenty20 debut and being named player of the tournament at the Under-19 World Cup in Malaysia, are a bit of a blur. "It's all happening pretty quickly but the good thing is I haven't really had time to think about it. I came back [from Malaysia] thinking I would do my best for Northern Districts, and if anything else happened that would be great."

GOOD STARTS

New Zealanders to take five wickets in an innings on their test debuts:

Alec Moir: 6-155 v England at Christchurch, 1951

Fen Cresswell: 6-168 v England at The Oval, 1949

Tim Southee: 5-55 v England at Napier, 2008

Paul Wiseman: 5-82 v Sri Lanka at Colombo, 1997-98

Bruce Taylor: 5-86 v India at Calcutta, 1965

Mark Gillespie: 5-136 v South Africa at Centurion, 2007

- The Dominion Post

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