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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.

Peter Moores

Moores guides Notts back to English cricket’s elite

The summer of 2017 was one of unparalleled success for Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club.

They achieved something remarkable, powering their way to victory in both the Royal London One Day Cup and the T20 Blast as well as winning promotion back to Division One of the County Championship.

Elephant Sport sat down with head coach Peter Moores at Trent Bridge to get to the bottom of Notts’ near perfect season.

How to take a loss

“We had a great time as a squad last summer,” said Moores. “We had a real laugh with it.

“But we worked really hard, and with that we got rewards.”

The Midlands county started the season at a frightening pace, decimating all before them in the opening rounds of the Championship, winning their first three matches convincingly.

In those games no team scored more than 251 before being dismissed by the unstoppable bowling attack of Stuart Broad, Jake Ball, Harry Gurney and Luke Fletcher.

Overseas import Australian James Pattinson was devastating with the new ball but once he, Broad and Ball were called up for international duty the Outlaws struggled to replace them.

Successive defeats kicked off the Royal London campaign and a sense of trepidation began to linger around Trent Bridge.

Nottinghamshire had only won one white ball competition since 1991 before this season, and a club with facilities and stature such as theirs would be disappointed with such an empty trophy cabinet.

But attitudes changed under Moores after he was appointed at the end of the 2016 season.


“I really enjoyed how we managed to take a loss. We started the season well but you’ve got to do it over a period of time, not just the first few weeks of the season when everybody’s up for it,” Moores said.

Hales celebrates reaching his century in the Royal London One Day Cup final

Following their initial two Royal London defeats, Notts lost only one of their next nine games in the competition, culminating in an Alex Hales inspired victory against Surrey in the final.

The opener scored a sensational 187 not out – the highest individual one-day score at Lord’s – as Notts chased down Surrey’s 297.

And Moores credits this victory to the preparation his team made earlier in the season.

“We pitched up at every game ready to play, we didn’t just go through the motions. And when we did get to the latter stages of competitions we were used to playing with that high intensity.

“This is what you need to do to win tournaments.”

T20 triumph

But Moores’ side did not settle for one success.

At the carnival that is T20 Finals Day, Samit Patel and Harry Gurney inspired Nottinghamshire as they defeated Hampshire in the semi-final before beating Warwickshire in the final.

Patel during his game-changing innings

Both Patel and Gurney were outstanding throughout the day.

Patel’s 64 not out in the final came in a 132 run partnership with Brendan Taylor (65), that dragged Notts to a very defendable 190-4 from their 20 overs despite being 30-3 when the pair met at the crease.

And Gurney gave the England selectors plenty to think about, bowling magnificently throughout the day, sealing their place in the final with three wickets in four balls late in the semi before snaring 4-17 in the final. His combined figures for the day of 7-34 are the best in the history of this tournament finale.

“The T20 Blast win was probably the most pleasurable in that we had already won a trophy. We could have easily taken our foot off the gas [after the Royal London win] and taken a backward step,” said the 55 year-old.

“The lads got tight again and worked really hard. We found a way to win.”

Back in Division One

In the late September sunshine, the men from Robin Hood’s county secured the draw they required against Sussex in Hove to seal second place and promotion from Division Two.

The ex-England coach reflected fondly on that autumn afternoon. “Often, in seasons like this, you remember particular defining moments. And there was a great one right at the end when [captain] Chris Read got his hundred and we got promoted.”

The wicket keeper was playing his final match as a professional and celebrated a fabulous career with his 26th first class century in his 349th match.

The 39 year-old’s 124 contributed to Notts’ 477 in the first innings, effectively negating the enormous 565 Sussex had scored batting first.

Sussex did not have enough time to force a result and the draw confirmed Nottinghamshire’s immediate return to Division One following relegation in 2016.

Platform to perform

Notts are determined not to re-enter English cricket’s elite as underdogs.

“We aim to win the Championship,” Moores asserted. “Backing up success is always a tough one so we’ve got a big challenge this coming season.”

‘We have fun but the players, and me as a coach, are continually trying to get better. That’s what gets you out of bed in the morning’

Some may say this confidence from Moores places unnecessary pressure on his players, but the head coach is keen for his squad to confront these fears of failure.

“To win anything you have got to take pressure, so you have got to be ready to as an individual and as a team. There are going to be certain situations when the pressure is going to be on you to deliver, but that’s the fun of professional sport.

“My coaching style is to try and help people build belief, belief is the fuel of the player. I try and help them go out and perform not because they believe they can, but because they do not believe they can’t”

And Nottinghamshire provides that platform for players to perform.

“The club has a village atmosphere within a Test match ground. The pavilion is very intimate and it helps players connect with what they are playing for.

“There have been brilliant players before and there will be brilliant players after so this current lot must look after the traditions and respects that make up our club”

Repeating the successes of 2017 will be challenging. But Moores and his staff have a measured approach.

“We break the season down into sections, and we work hard. But hopefully the players realise ‘this isn’t work, I’ve got the chance to achieve something great’”

“And we have fun but the players, and me as a coach, are continually trying to get better. That’s what gets you out of bed in the morning.”