Tim Southee returned with six wickets to give New Zealand a vital 103-run lead and ascendancy in the first Test against hosts England at Lord’s. The veteran New Zealand pacer returned with a magnificent 6-43 in 25.1 overs and was confident that the visitors could still push for a win on Day 5. New Zealand would be in the driver’s seat had rain not abandoned the entire day’s play on Day 3.
Southee will have a big role to play if New Zealand are to dictate the course of play on the last day in London. He is New Zealand’s third-highest wicket-taker in history after Richard Hadlee and Daniel Vettori and has a tally of 308 wickets in 78 matches at an average of 28.28 and strike rate of 56.9. Amongst active players, Southee is the third-highest wicket-taker amongst fast bowlers after James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Southee has been New Zealand’s war-horse since his debut in March, 2008. His immaculate line and length and ability to swing the ball make him a dangerous bowler in all conditions but especially in New Zealand and England. This explains the skew in his bowling averages in these two countries in comparison with his modest returns in other countries. He has a fine record in Sri Lanka and the Caribbean too but their weak Test units is as much of a factor there as Southee’s impressive bowling.
A Champion At Home
Southee is the second-highest wicket-taker at home (after Hadlee) with 189 wickets in 44 matches at an average of 26.89 and strike rate of 54.1. Five of his best bowling performances (in terms of wickets taken in a series) have come in New Zealand. Six of his 10 best bowling performances (in terms of wickets taken in a match) have also come at home.
Southee was the chief destroyer of India’s famed batting line-up in the series opener at The Basin Reserve in 2020. He returned with a career-best match performance at home (9-110) as New Zealand beat India by 10 wickets. The crafty pacer again made excellent use of the conditions using the outswinger as his stock option and the one that nipped back with a scrambled seam as the surprise delivery.
Southee’s other high impact performance at home came against England at Christchurch in 2018. He bagged six wickets in the first innings keeping England’s first innings’ total in check. New Zealand managed to hold on for a draw and took the two-match series 1-0.
Career Best Performance At Lord’s
Southee has picked 26 wickets in 6 matches at a strike rate of 54.3 in England. His only 10-wicket haul in a match (in his career) came at Lord’s in 2013 - the venue for the ongoing series opener - which makes this an even more significant achievement. Southee returned with 4-58 in the first innings and 6-50 in the second. He got the big wicket of Joe Root twice in the match. A number of the English batsmen fell to the Southee outswinger going for the drive outside the off-stump. He surprised Root with the one that came back in again with the scrambled seam to uproot his stumps in the second innings.
This could well be Southee’s modus operandi on a Day 5 Lord’s wicket too. He will persist ball after ball over after over bowling those full-ish outswingers and then just get one back with the wobbled seam to catch the batsman off guard making him an lbw candidate or going through his defence.
Southee, interestingly, also has a good record in the sub-continent.
Match-Winning Performance in Colombo
Southee has picked 19 wickets in 4 matches in Sri Lanka with his best 8-120 in the victorious Test in Colombo in 2012. The home team did not have world-class bowlers after the retirement of Muralitharan and Vaas but still boasted of a formidable batting line-up. Southee saw the back of two of the big three - Dilshan and Sangakkara within the first three overs with the new ball. He returned with a fifer in the first innings, cleaning up the hosts for 244 which gave New Zealand a big first innings lead and ascendancy in the match. Southee again got two early breakthroughs with the new ball in the second innings as New Zealand levelled the two-match series at 1-1.
Southee returned with 7-64 in 24 overs against India in Bengaluru in 2012 which actually gave New Zealand a 12-run lead in the first innings. He dismissed Gambhir and Pujara with the new ball and later returned to see the back of Kohli, Raina and Dhoni amongst others.
Amongst The Best Fast Bowlers in World Test Championship
Southee is New Zealand’s highest wicket-taker with 51 wickets in just 10 matches at a stunning average of 20.66 and strike rate of 45.9 in the ICC’s inaugural World Test Championship. His strike rate places him at number four amongst all bowlers (after Ishant Sharma, Shami and Broad) with a minimum of 30 wickets and 8 matches in the WTC (2019-2021).
Southee returned with six wickets in the match in New Zealand’s thumping series-levelling innings’ win against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 2019. He was the only shining light bagging 9 wickets at Perth in an otherwise disappointing defeat against Australia. His 9 wicket haul against India was followed by five wickets in another win at Christchurch.
Southee was also the leading wicket-taker of the 2-0 home-series win against the West Indies in 2020 returning with 12 wickets in two matches.
The performance of their 32-year old seasoned campaigner is one of the major reasons why New Zealand have dominated Test cricket since December 2017 losing just one series in the last three and a half years.
Southee’s high impact performance with the ball was not enough to take New Zealand to a win at Lord’s in 2013. It might well turn out to be a different story at the end of play on Day 5 at the home of cricket in 2021.