ESPNcricinfo Awards

ESPNcricinfo Awards 2020 Debutant of the year: the towering inferno

Menacingly tall, lethal with the ball, handy with the bat - our debutant of the year is all that

Kyle Jamieson celebrates during his hat-trick, Auckland v Central Districts, Plunket Shield, Eden Park No. 2, October 29, 2020

Crafted for destruction: Jamieson was a crucial ingredient in New Zealand's rise to No. 1 in the Test rankings  •  Getty Images

He's absurdly tall, tall enough to have seriously considered a basketball career at one point, and like most absurdly tall fast bowlers, he gets steep bounce from just short of a length. But where other fast bowlers of his build - Morne Morkel, say, or Ishant Sharma - spent most of their early careers being called unlucky for repeatedly beating the bat without finding the edge, Jamieson came to international cricket with the ability to shift to a fuller, more dangerous, length already hardwired in him.
He gets prodigious seam movement, as you might expect, but he's also able to swing the ball both ways, having added the indipper to his arsenal over the winter of 2020. And he gives nothing away: 56 of the 159 overs he bowled in Tests in 2020 were maidens.
If all this makes him seem like a cricketer built in a lab, his batting reinforces it. Jamieson was primarily a batsman until he made the New Zealand Under-19 team, and that shows in his organised technique. He drives and lofts down the ground with the straightest of bats, and he can put the short ball away too.
That frighteningly rounded skill set with ball and bat has ensured Jamieson has performed a feat that seemed fiendishly difficult before he came along - breaking into New Zealand's best pace attack ever. But because he can bat, and because he poses a threat different to those of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner, he's now a locked-in member of a quartet that has made New Zealand close to unbeatable at home, suffocating batting line-ups from all angles and giving them no respite.
It was no surprise that New Zealand reached No. 1 on the Test rankings for the first time in their history soon after discovering Jamieson. He was that missing, magic ingredient.

Key moment

There have been more eye-catching dismissals - the heat-seeking first-ball inswinger that made a mess of Roston Chase's stumps in Wellington, for example. But for who Jamieson dismissed, and how he did it, you really can't look beyond the one against India in Wellington. It was Jamieson's first day of Test cricket, and he'd already taken out one big fish. Then he sent down a series of short, or short-of-good-length, deliveries, pushing the new batsman back. Then the full tempter - go on, drive it; Virat Kohli did, or tried to, but his weight wasn't fully forward, and the ball ended up in Ross Taylor's hands at first slip.

The numbers

14.44 Jamieson's average at the end of the year. Of all bowlers with at least 25 Test wickets, only the 19th-century pair of George Lohmann and JJ Ferris have better averages.
20 Jamieson's lowest score in five Test innings.

What they said

"Kyle is extremely good with bat and ball, a very, very special talent. He's got a real strong desire to improve and pick the brains of some of these other senior guys that have been around for a long time, so he's a humble guy and a player that just wants to continue to get better."
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson

The closest contender

T Natarajan
Just as it did with Jasprit Bumrah, the yorker brought T Natarajan to the attention of the wider world. It carried him up the ranks, from tennis-ball tournaments in and around his village of Chinnappampatti, through eye-catching displays in the Tamil Nadu Premier League and Indian domestic cricket and then the IPL. Six wickets and an economy rate of 6.91 in the T20I series against Australia, during which he showed he had skills apart from the yorker, including clever changes of pace, made him a definite contender for India's squad at the 2021 T20 World Cup, with his left-arm angle adding a dimension their attack otherwise lacks.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo