They have been integral to the plans of captains around the world, especially when rival batsmen are determined to explode their way to mammoth totals.
Their ability to strike effectively and hunt in pairs is well known, but by themselves, they are far more deadly during the last ten overs of a One-Day International innings.
Wasim Akram and Glenn McGrath were two of the finest exponents of the art of bowling at the death as well as in the beginning of the match. Muttiah Muralitharan held aloft the spin banner in this regard, while the long-retired Ian Harvey was also a master at this stage of the game.
Here is a list of the five top ‘death bowlers’ in cricket today:
5. Ravindra Jadeja (India)
Currently the best ODI bowler in the world at present, the Saurashtra all-rounder justified his presence in the Indian side with a phenomenal performance over the last six or seven months. His crucial strikes have helped the team to turn the tide of a game, and the man is currently enjoying a purple patch of late.
Like spin legend Anil Kumble, Jadeja doesn’t turn the ball too much, neither does he beguile the batsmen with flight or loop. He simply tries to beat them off the pitch, altering the angle at times and bowling with a round-arm action. The ball, when landing, pitches half on the leather and half on the pitch, so it is difficult for the batsman to attack him easily.
A flatter trajectory and quick bowling speed have been Jadeja’s biggest strengths. During the slog overs, when batsmen try to go for broke, they are likely to use their feet more; knowing this, the 25-year old keeps it flat so they cannot get the elevation they need to play the big shots successfully. With the skipper’s backing, Jadeja will only continue to shine.
4. Jade Dernbach (England)
More than just a cricketer, the South Africa-born Dernbach is a rebel. Tattoos on both arms, a sometimes-outlandish hairdo and loads of skill in bowling during the final stages of an innings give one the impression that he is a rock star in the guise of a sportsman.
Dernbach used to be very profligate early in his career when batsmen would go after him without fear, but over time, he has reinvented himself as a strike bowler in the limited-overs format. A curious mixture of slower balls, faster ones, yorkers and bouncers have helped in his recent successes.
He was one of the architects of England’s T20 victory over Australia in August this year, and has also done well against India in recent times. A fine bowler, the young man!
3. Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka)
Reams have been written about the Sri Lankan slinger’s unplayable deliveries especially during the end of the innings when runs are most in demand. As things stand, he is truly one of the best ‘death bowlers’ in the world at present.
Blessed with a slinging round-arm action and able to generate high speeds, Malinga’s stock delivery is the toe-crushing yorker he sends down almost at will, as if he can read the batsman’s mind like an open book. His variety of slower bouncers and the back-of-hand slower ball have also proven to be highly effective.
In recent times, however, Malinga has been guilty of spraying the ball all over the wicket – remember how Kohli assaulted him at Hobart in 2012?
However, he still remains Jayawardene’s first-choice to bowl during the last five overs in ODI cricket, and continues to excel in that role.
2. Sunil Narine (West Indies)
I’ve said this a dozen times and I will say it again – this guy really needs to put a lid on the amount of grease he applies on his mohawk. His effectiveness could take a beating one day if he isn’t able to grip the ball properly.
Jokes apart, Narine is one crafty customer. Having re-modelled his bowling action in 2011, he returned to be one of the surprise packages in the 2012 IPL, helping the Kolkata Knight Riders to their maiden title after a five-year wait.
The carom ball, his weapon of choice, has been highly effective in bamboozling the opposition batsmen to no end. Narine also possesses the off-spinner’s traditional stock delivery – the off break – which somehow manages to have that extra bit of zing when he sends it down.
A handful in the middle overs, Narine is at his best during the time when batsmen have to score the maximum number of runs possible in a very short time, and if they happen to run up against him, it’s usually the bowler who wins. Only Test cricket remains for Narine to succeed in.
1. Dale Steyn (South Africa)
No list of death bowlers is complete without the speedster from South Africa, who is part of the bottomless and endless quiver of fast bowling arrows the Rainbow Nation possesses.
At express pace, it is very much difficult to exert control over line, length and accuracy. Steyn, however, has been able to do so with great success. Not only that, he is also able to move the ball away from the right handed batsmen at great speed, and his liberal use of bouncers and short-pitched deliveries have troubled many willow wielders around the world.
Dale does tend to bowl full tosses at times in the Twenty20 format, but in ODIs, he can be very unplayable when batsmen are trying to raise the tempo. With Morne Morkel and Marchant de Lange for company, the Steyn gun always comes out blazing at full power, taking out one batsman after the other.
The Proteas have unearthed a gem – a true gem of a bowler!
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and not reflective of the website as a whole.