Dream show in a nightmare park
Best Twenty20 Bowling PerformanceTim Southee
5 for 18 v Pakistan, first Twenty20, Auckland
Eden Park is a bowler's nightmare. Less than a year out from the rugby World Cup - the final of which is to be played at the venue - the entire stadium had been revamped with rugby in mind. This meant, of course, that the proportions of the ground were stacked thoroughly in favour of the batsmen for the Boxing Day Twenty20 between New Zealand and Pakistan.
The new square boundaries at Eden Park are short, sure, but at 45 metres from the batting crease, the straight boundaries are in another league of minuteness altogether. Mishits sail high over the ropes and men patrolling the boundary very rarely have a hope of stopping well-timed shots. Tim Southee, though, had apparently missed the memo and produced the Twenty20 bowling performance of the year with a game-changing spell.
Chasing their first win in 14 matches across all formats, New Zealand were under pressure early. Shahid Afridi had exploded at the top for Pakistan, hitting two sixes and a four in his 20, and Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad were carrying on the good work. At Southee's introduction into the attack in the sixth over, Pakistan were flying along at more than 10 an over, and a score in excess of 200 was on the cards. Five wickets in nine deliveries put paid to that.
Southee's first five deliveries were largely unremarkable, but from then on, the wickets came thick and fast. The last ball of his first over was a smart legcutter. Shehzad dangled his bat uncertainly and it took the outside edge on its way through to the keeper.
His second over was the kind bowlers dream about. Younis Khan went hard at the short, wide offering that was the second ball, only to top-edge it to deep point, where the fielder took a comfortable catch. Hafeez was out next delivery. Almost a carbon copy of Ahmed Shehzad's caught-behind, only this time the ball was a tad quicker.
The hat-trick delivery couldn't have been much better. It angled in fast and struck Umar Akmal on the pads, and the bowler, along with the rest of Eden Park, went up instantly. The appeal was upheld, and Southee had taken New Zealand's second hat-trick in Twenty20. Two balls later he completed a triple-wicket maiden, and the wicket of Abdul Razzak in the following over gave him his five-wicket haul. In a staggering nine-ball burst, Southee had ravaged the Pakistan top order and transformed the outlook of the match.
Following Southee's spell of 5 for 18 from four overs, business resumed as usual for the batsmen. Wahab Riaz and Umar Gul showed just how easy batting was at the ground, hitting plenty of boundaries between them to restore some credibility to the Pakistan total. Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor then underscored the point during New Zealand's chase. On a belter of a track on a small ground, Southee's stunning spell had been the difference.
In 2009, Umar Gul's demolition of New Zealand at The Oval took the award for this category. This time around, Southee got a bit of his own back.