Tag Archives: Ben Stokes

harry gurney

Harry Gurney on the art of bowling at the death

England fans have painful memories of Ben Stokes’ inability to nail that yorker and protect 19 runs in the final over of the World T20 in 2016.

Carlos Brathwaite’s four consecutive sixes for the West Indies in Kolkata will forever haunt both Stokes and his team-mates and those watching aghast on the sofa at home.

It sounds a lot, 19 runs, but bowling at the death is not easy.

Back on our shores, Nottinghamshire head coach Peter Moores told me that of the three competition successes his side enjoyed in 2017, the T20 Blast victory was the most pleasurable.

And for that a great deal of credit must go to left-arm seamer Harry Gurney, whose tight bowling late on secured both the semi-final and the final.

Elephant Sport met with the bowler to discuss the art of bowling at the death.

Having a blast at finals day

Gurney celebrates beating Birmingham Bears in the final

In the semi-final of the T20 Blast against Hampshire, the dangerous trio of Liam Dawson, Gareth Berg and Kyle Abbott all fell victim to one Gurney over, the 18th of the innings, leaving Hampshire with one wicket remaining and too many to get.

And in the final, the 31-year-old opened his box of cutters and back-of-the-hand slower balls to which the Birmingham Bears had no reply.

The removal of New Zealander Colin de Grandhomme in the 15th over and Sam Hain in the 19th – the former with a T20 strike rate well above 160 while the latter was well set on 72 – edged Notts ever closer to their second white ball trophy of the summer.

In that final, Gurney was the right man for the job.

“In T20 cricket, I’m the captain’s go-to man. If he feels like there is a situation arising where he needs a wicket or a tight over I’m the man he’ll come to.

“De Grandhomme was starting to motor [in a partnership with Hain] and we thought if he gets going here they could still win this.”

But the seamer outfoxed the danger man, with the Kiwi misreading a slower ball and chopping onto his own stumps.

Gurney returned to bowl the penultimate over of the match. The Bears needed 34 from 12 balls, a difficult task but Hain was playing beautifully while Aaron Thomason was more than capable of clearing the rope.


Gurney said: “I have always bowled the last two overs from one end [in T20 cricket]. I enjoy bowling at that time, I like to be in control of my own destiny.”

And enjoy it he did, conceding only five runs and removing both occupiers of the crease, leaving the Bears requiring 29 from the final over with two new batsmen.

Birmingham simply could not decipher Gurney’s action, his variety of lengths and speed making him near impossible to dispatch to the boundary.

Jake Ball followed the script in the final over and the Outlaws won by 22 runs. Gurney finished the day with figures of 7-34, the best ever in the history of this tournament finale.

Hard work

But how does a bowler develop these skills? Any professional can land the ball where they require but scoreboard pressure can alter the trajectory of a delivery far more drastically than seam position.

“But I also might find a ball out of nowhere that takes a wicket”

“The main reason is hard work. At the end of practice, when everyone else is done, I take myself off to a pitch on the side, put a cone down and I won’t be happy until I’ve nailed that yorker a few times.

“I’ve always prided myself on my work ethic with regard to those variations and that is now combined with a few years executing those skills in the middle.

“People know I might leak the odd boundary but I also might find a ball out of nowhere that takes a wicket”

But it is the slower ball that makes the left-armer such a threat.

“I’ve got two slower balls, the one that comes out the back of my hand and the one where I roll my fingers down the side. Then I pair those with either a length ball, a bouncer or a yorker.

“But I didn’t bowl a bouncer on finals day, it just didn’t feel right.”

Have England missed a trick?

Representing England in 2014

On finals day Gurney was spot on. His economy for the day was a staggering 4.86 runs per over.

Those figures are enough to win any T20 game and this was no accident with the precision and skill of his bowling being the clear product of hours of hard work.

“It’s a funny phrase isn’t it, ‘hard work’. There’s only so hard being a professional sportsman could be.”

But it paid off and many took notice, including Rob Smyth writing in The Guardian, who said: “England must be a bloody good T20 side if they don’t need him”

They certainly could have done with Gurney on that night in Kolkata.

The IPL’s five most expensive signings for 2017

The Indian Premier League (IPL) kicks off again this April, as cricket’s most lucrative tournament returns for its 10th year.

The annual auction took place in Bengaluru, India, last month where the eight franchises battled it out for the services of the world’s best players.

We take a look at the five most expensive signings in this year’s IPL auction and predict how they are going to fare in this year’s competition.

1. Ben Stokes – 145 million INR (£1.7m)

Team: Rising Pune Supergiants

Ben Stokes described as “complete carnage” the moment when he became the most expensive foreign player in this year’s competition.

Pune spent the majority of their budget on Stokes, but the fact he can bat, bowl and field puts him in an extremely rare category of cricketer, and this convinced the Supergiants to pounce late on.

Stokes will offer immense power hitting in the middle to latter overs, as well as being able to bowl effectively. Not forgetting the fact he is one of the best fielders in the world, with a bullet throw and bucket hands.

He is charismatic, powerful and fiery and has all the ingredients needed to be an IPL hit.

Stokes does not have fond memories of India though thanks to a poor 2016 World Cup. But if he can cope with the pressure being Pune’s main man, then expect him to be back with a vengeance.

2. Tymal Mills – 120 million INR (£1.4m)

Team: Royal Challengers Bangalore

£1.4m seems a lot to pay for a man that almost quit the game two years ago and has only played four T20 internationals, but Mills’ form and his variation has earned him a life-changing IPL contract.

Mills was diagnosed with a congenital back condition in 2015, which led to the decision that the seamer would only play T20 cricket and not the longer format of the game.

This has allowed him to focus on the short game and become a real T20 specialist. We saw evidence of this when England were in India earlier this year as Mills really caught the eye with some superb short spells, picking up a wicket in each of the three matches he played.

Mills’ slower ball is currently one of the most effective deliveries in T20 cricket, with numerous batsmen struggling to pick it.

The Sussex man has the ability to turn his arm around just before release that sends the ball down at about 60 mph, instead of 90 mph, without changing his arm speed.

If Mills can cope with the pressure of India and reproduce some of the form we have seen from him in an England shirt of late, then RCB may have just signed themselves a trump card for this year’s competition.

3. Kagiso Rabada – 50 million INR (£600,000)

Team: Delhi Daredevils

Rabada is seen as the most exciting talent to emerge from South Africa in years and is currently one of the best young players in world cricket. So it was no surprise that Dehli made him the third most expensive signing in the tournament.

They had to fend of fierce competition from Kings XI Punjab for his signature. But at just 21 years old, he is already one of the leaders of the South African attack and is constantly in and around 90 mph, so it was easy to see why Dehli were so determined to recruit him.

For such a young man, Rabada has had plenty of T20 experience, including games against England and Australia, as well as leading the attack for South Africa at the 2016 World T20 in India.

His versatility will certainly play in Dehli’s favour; he can open the bowling well, bowl through the middle overs with control, or even bowl at the death if needed.

And with the help of his fellow South Africans JP Duminy, Chris Morris and Quinton De Kock, who are all in the Daredevils squad, he should be able to settle in and hit the ground running.

4. Trent Boult – 50 million (£600,000)

Team: Kolkata Knight Riders

Trent Boult’s hefty fee may have raised a few eyebrows considering he has not established himself as much in T20 cricket as he has in Tests and ODIs. He’s also injury prone, and  featured just once in the IPL last season.

However, Boult is still considered as one of the best new ball bowlers in world cricket, and if he can stay fit and perform to somewhat near his best then KKR can expect to have a good tournament.

The Knight Riders are another side that have invested heavily in their seam attack and have also added Englishmen Chris Woakes to compliment Boult.

Boult and Woakes have been tipped to be an effective bowling partnership for Kolkata, given their styles and right-hand left-hand combination

Manish Pandey, one of KKR’s star batsmen, is the latest to heap praise on the pair. “These two players, Woakes and Boult, will be really good and they will hopefully make the difference for us’.’

5. Pat Cummins – 45 million INR (£550,000)

Team: Delhi Daredevils

The lanky Aussie fast bowler is one of two big money signings made by Dehli and is sure to add plenty of pace and aggression with the new ball for the Daredevils.

Cummins is young and possesses raw pace, often above 90 mph, which is crucial in T20 cricket at both the start and the end of an innings.

The fast bowler was particularly impressive in his maiden Big Bash season, where he topped the bowling charts with 11 wickets at just 14.09 a piece.

This kind of form, combined with his raw pace and potential, were all culminating factors as to why Dehli paid 4.5 Crore Rupees for his services making him the 5th most expensive player in this year’s competition.

He will certainly be one to watch out for.