Sliding into the business end of the Cricket World Cup, Aotearoa Blackcaps have found a hefty point of difference in an otherwise mundane bowling attack thanks to Lockie Ferguson. Ferguson has quietly gone about his wicket-taking business since Gary Stead took over as coach prior to the tour to United Arab Emirates last year and right now, Ferguson sits behind Mohammad Amir, Jofra Archer and Mitchell Starc as the best bowlers of this World Cup.
That is an incredible group of bowling talent and Ferguson is by no means out of his depth in calling Mo, Jof and Mitch his seam bowling comrades. With 14 wickets @ 15.50 average/4.76rpo, Ferguson has bowled the fewest overs of this group and Amir is the only bloke who has a better average and/or an economy rate to rival Ferguson; 14.60avg/4.76rpo.
When Aotearoa needed wickets vs South Africa, Ferguson skittled the stumps of Faf du Plessis after the South African skipper had got a start in 23 runs of 35 balls. Ferguson then came back in the 45th over to dismiss a set David Miller and it was the same story vs West Indies as Ferguson skittled the stumps of Shimron Hetmyer in the 23rd over with Hetmyer sizzling his way to 54 off 45 balls. Next ball, Ferguson sent Jason Holder back to the sheds.
Both games saw Ferguson swing the game back in favour of Aotearoa and this trend has been blatant throughout the World Cup, to the point where Ferguson is the most important weapon Aotearoa have. Having taken 3w in his first three games, Trent Boult is doing exactly what we expect from a player of his quality in turning it up as the tournament rolls out and Boult's 4-wicket-haul vs Windies may see Boult kick on.
It's Ferguson though, who has consistently snapped an innings. If Boult isn't taking wickets, it's most likely because of the respect he commands, while Matt Henry is still a bit iffy as to whether he's a big time seamer. Mitchell Santner has 3w total and isn't an attacking option, which leaves Ferguson's breakthroughs crucial to Aotearoa's success. Ferguson has taken a wicket in every game so far and of the five games played, Ferguson has taken 3+ wickets in four of those games.
Roll it back to that trip to UAE and you'll find Ferguson playing all three games vs Pakistan, bowling 29.2 overs and Boult was the only bowler in this series to bowl more than Ferguson (30ov). Ferguson led all wicket-takers with 11w @ 12.81avg/4.80rpo, but it was the opportunity to play and bowl in all three games that marked a turning point in how Ferguson was used by new coach Stead.
Prior to that series, Ferguson had only enjoyed consistent game time against weaker opposition in Aotearoa and played just one game in a home series vs South Africa then one game vs England in Aotearoa. Since the start of the series vs Pakistan in UAE, Ferguson has taken his (incredible) career average of 25.45 down to 19.97 and of the 13 games played since the home summer began, Ferguson has gone wicket-less in just two games.
Any Ferguson appreciation shouldn't really be a surprise, considering his career averages across all formats...
This is at a point where it's kind of an assumption that Ferguson will take a few wickets every game. Hence, Ferguson doesn't get a whole lot of love as being a key figure in the Blackcaps bowling attack as consistently solid work doesn't grab the headlines, especially not when others are also taking wickets. Ferguson's ability to take such wicket-taking prowess on to the biggest cricket stage, has given the Blackcaps a huge boost at this World Cup and there is a fair chance that Ferguson finishes the campaign as Aotearoa's best bowler.
What I'm most intrigued about though, is which batsman wants to follow suit. All the runs, outside of a whack-whack extravaganza vs Sri Lanka have come from Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, meaning we are yet to see another batsman step up in any capacity. For Williamson and Taylor, it's business as usual and the Blackcaps are missing a batsman who like Ferguson, has taken their strong work in Aotearoa into a World Cup.
Which is alright, for now, because the Blackcaps have been able find ways around this. Someone from the Martin Guptill, Colin Munro and Tom Latham trio has to re-acquaint themselves with semi-consistent runs asap. The other major contender to emulate Ferguson's rise, is Henry Nicholls and they are eerily similar in the sense that Nicholls has been fabulous in bullying touring nations, presenting a fabulous opportunity for him to take that into a World Cup. Nicholls is yet to be sighted though and there's no real need for him to be selected.
Anyone who watches Blackcaps cricket on a regular basis knows that Colin de Grandhomme could explode with all sorts of runs, but probably won't. Everyone wants de Grandhomme to be able to save an innings, or do the near-impossible and smack boundaries every innings; both of which are as unlikely as the other. Other than that frontline batsman trio, this leaves Jimmy Neesham and there is enticing scope for Neesham to follow his Auckland Grammar School homie Ferguson in hitting a nek level at the World Cup.
Neesham has had scores of 25, 23 and 28. That means Neesham faced 33 balls, 34 and 23 which are all starts to an innings and kinda annoying that Neesham then gets dismissed via catches all three times. What Neesham has shown though is his all-round skillset as a batsman; vs Bangladesh and South Africa, Neesham had to hold the innings together and had strike-rates of 75.75 and 67.64 before flexing with a strike-rate of 121.73 vs Windies.
The intrigue is doubled up as we wait to see if Ferguson can sustain such quality x-factor bowling and who of the batting group is going to help Williamson and Taylor. I reckon Neesham will make some key contributions moving forward and you'd be foolish to believe that Guppy doesn't have a few key knocks in him.
Hit an ad to support the Blackcaps World Cup chat.
Support the Niche Cache was we try to build our base on Patreon. Support the underdogs as best you can, a little goes a long way.
Peace and love 27.