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March 21, 2010
News : Big screen referrals and desperate ducks
Report : Bollinger makes his mark on struggling New Zealand
News : New Zealand unhappy over 'inconsistent' referrals
Players/Officials: Doug Bollinger
Series/Tournaments: Australia tour of New Zealand
In less than four months, Doug Bollinger has become the most important bowler in Australia's Test team but he still hasn't perfected his celebrations. When he completed his second Test five-for, he looked down and kissed his shirt, hesitated for a second as he realised he'd actually got the VB sponsor's logo, and tried to recover by switching sides and finding the Australian badge.
He laughed it off. He's used to doing that. He did the badge-kissing thing in Perth in December, but joked it was only because he'd seen someone else do it. He was asked in the lead-up to this game how his hairpiece would stand up in the Wellington wind and said: "Next question".
He bugs his team-mates by repeating the same joke over and over in the change-rooms: "Two fish are in a tank and one says to the other 'how do you drive this thing?'" He would be a fun but exhausting man to be around.
Fortunately, there is more to Bollinger than a unique personality. His seven wickets so far in the Wellington Test put Australia firmly in control and it continued his outstanding summer in the five-day game. Since returning to the team at the start of December, he has collected 32 breakthroughs at 18.06, easily the most of any Australian player in that time.
Mitchell Johnson keeps finding victims and Nathan Hauritz has discovered his niche but Bollinger has become the spearhead. He is the man to whom Ricky Ponting turns when a change in momentum is required, or to convert a couple of wickets into a collapse. He achieved both those feats on the third day, first running through the New Zealand tail to allow Ponting to enforce the follow-on for the second time this season, then breaking an opening stand that had swelled to 70.
His speed and accuracy allow batsmen no respite and that was what upset BJ Watling, who had cautiously worked his way to 33 when he was lbw to a ball that pitched in line and straightened, for the second time in the game. His angle soon accounted for Peter Ingram and he edged behind.
The 5 for 28 that he secured in the first innings was fitting reward for his persistence. The same energy that nags good-naturedly at his team-mates causes far more worries for his opponents and even late in the afternoon, after a day and a half of bowling, he was still peppering down bouncers and making the batsmen jump.
"I'm trying to [intimidate]," Bollinger said. "That's just how I bowl, I try to be aggressive and bowl in the batsman's face and make them as uncomfortable as I can. That's what a fast bowler's job is to do. I felt really, really good today. I didn't try to overdo anything. I just feel like the ball is coming out of my hand really well at the moment and I'm just really, really enjoying my cricket."
Bollinger makes otherwise pedestrian periods of Test cricket compulsory viewing. When he's sprinting in it is impossible to look away for fear of missing a wicket, an appeal or a moment of mirth.
This Test has had the lot: 7 for 58, a laughably optimistic appeal (he was the only man to go up for a bump ball return catch and you could sense his team-mates cringe) and a VB kiss that was replayed over and over. The team's most important bowler is also its most watchable.
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