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December 14, 2013
It has been a good few weeks for left-arm pacemen. In Australia, Mitchell Johnson has been tormenting the England batsmen and, in a more understated series and in a less visceral manner, Trent Boult has been doing the same to West Indies.
The leading wicket-takers this year include the usual suspects - Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Dale Steyn; Boult, who moves to 41 wickets with his haul of 10 for 80 in Wellington, is fully deserving of his place among those names.
Quite how high he ends 2013 depends on his performance in Hamilton and the others around the world, but even if he does not take a single wicket at Seddon Park he has had the most productive year for a New Zealand bowler since Daniel Vettori claimed 54 wickets in 2008 and the fourth best of all time. He is now a bowler who demands the utmost respect in a variety of conditions.
The celebrations of the win he inspired included a Wellington tradition of the bowling attack taking a limo up to the top of Mt Victoria in the city - something none of the current line-up have been able to do as New Zealand's previous victory here was in 2008.
"It was one of those days where things seemed to fall my way," Boult said, a few hours before the evening drive up the summit. "It's easily one of the best days I've had in Test cricket, personally and from a team perspective so nothing I'm going to forget in a hurry."
Boult is an unassuming character, quietly spoken (except when talking his team-mates through the spectacular catch at backward point to remove Denesh Ramdin) and not inclined for bullish comments that sometimes emerge from pace bowlers.
His rise can be traced back to late 2012, when he excelled in Sri Lanka to help New Zealand level the series - a country where success as a fast bowler is something to be cherished. This year, on some docile pitches at home, he has found ways and means to extract movement and trouble the batsmen. Against England in Auckland, when James Anderson struggled to move the ball off straight, Boult hooped his way to 6 for 68, the figures he surpassed in Wellington.
He is also quicker than may first appear, pushing the speed gun towards 140 kph. He has rattled the helmets of a few West Indies batsmen in this series, even on the slow pitch in Dunedin, and he makes smart use of an accurate bouncer.
"Trent's been bowling well for over a year," said New Zealand coach Mike Hesson. "It hasn't just happened. He's bowled well on occasions and been frustrated that he hasn't got the wickets that he's deserved. For him to have the day he had, we are all hugely excited for him.
"The way he presents the seam is as good as there is going around. He's got the ability to take top-order wickets because he swings the ball late and he's got a good bumper so he keeps guys off the front foot and he's extremely fit so he can bowl three, four hard spells a day."
Fitness is an aspect that stands out. There has been toil for New Zealand's bowlers this year, none more so than the past week where they have twice been asked to perform in the follow-on. They spent 224 consecutive overs in the field in Dunedin - of which Boult bowled 53, the most by any of the seamers - followed by a swift turnaround to the second Test.
Brendon McCullum is wary of the expectations placed on his seamers and at the start of West Indies' follow-on at the Basin Reserve. Boult's initial spell was just two overs which created some debate given how McCullum admitted it was not a simple decision to enforce. Later, though, Boult returned, the opening having been created by his team-mates, to hurry the Test to a conclusion.
"There was a plan in place. I had a heavy workload not just in the first innings but the previous week as well so it was good to just refresh and come back," Boult explained. "When the ball was new and glossy, it didn't really talk as much until the lacquer came off. So it was nice to come back in that later stage and exploit a bit of swing."
Hesson lauded the stamina of his whole squad, although said there were a few niggles that needed to be checked before the squad for the final Test was confirmed. He had particularly high praise for Boult who, according to the team's fitness reports from the dreaded Yo-Yo test which involves shuttle running, compares favourably to any other elite sportsmen in New Zealand.
"I look at the fitness tests he's been through, and we compare then to other sports, and he's right up there," Hesson said. "It shows his ability to sustain his pace over a period of time. He's a good athlete and still young."
Still, regardless of the impressive levels of energy, there will be no one happier about the rapid conclusion to the second Test than New Zealand's bowlers. They have two extra days to put their feet up before aiming for a repeat performance in Hamilton and a first series victory over opposition other than Bangladesh or Zimbabwe since beating West Indies in 2005-06.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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