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Feature

Who has the best yorker in the game today?

It's the most stunning ball in white-ball cricket. Four staffers weigh in on who sends it down the best

27-May-2021
Shaheen Afridi bowls Jonny Bairstow with a yorker, England v Pakistan, 3rd T20I, Old Trafford, September 1, 2020

The algorithm likes you: Shaheen Afridi yorks Jonny Bairstow with an inswinger at Old Trafford, 2020  •  Getty Images

Shaheen Shah Afridi
Osman Samiuddin, senior editor
The best measure of a yorker, everyone knows, is YouTube views. Other metrics are useful, such as the quality of batters it is bowled to, the consistency and accuracy with which the right length is hit, its strike- and economy rates, the ability to bowl it at will and to know when and to whom to bowl it to.
But until and unless a bowler's yorker has produced a warehouse's worth of compilation clips - all of which play around with the same eight or nine deliveries and in reality are competing on headlines - then it hasn't arrived. YouTube views are the yorker's real currency, and by that measure, Afridi is making his way to the hallowed territory that is, specifically, The Pakistani Yorker on YouTube: marvel at the Guldozer, bow to the legend of the Ws, go extreme with Shaibi, pay homage to Imran.
Already on YouTube, Afridi is battling with Mitchell Starc: "Shaheen Afridi vs Mitchell Starc Top 7 yorkers - Who is Yorker King?" has nearly 2 million views. There's a five-minute video of Afridi - filmed from the stands - practising yorkers with other Pakistan bowlers that has nearly a quarter of a million views.
The one wicket you will find in most of these videos is a beast of the genre, to Jonny Bairstow, in the third T20I on the 2020 tour of England. By seam position it's set for inswing, as the clip to leg Bairstow attempts implies. It does shape that way too until the very end, when suddenly it goes straight instead, maybe even swerves away, landing at the base of off stump. The best yorkers are deceptive, and duly, Bairstow indicates he didn't pick it.
If you're not convinced, watch this one. Bog-standard yorker, angling in from round the wicket, but check the victim: his father-in-law-to-be. How many yorkers do you know can do that?
Jasprit Bumrah
Sidharth Monga, assistant editor
Look, it had to be Lasith Malinga, but the commission for this piece has disqualified him because he has not played serious cricket in a year and therefore does not qualify as a current bowler. I nevertheless believe that if you put Malinga in a suit, give him a bank job and then ask him to bowl an over in his lunch break, he'd still nail them yorkers.
And he had a variety of them - the searing quick one, the wide one, and the lethal slower, dipping one with which he ended the 2019 IPL final.
In Malinga's absence, his spiritual heir in limited-overs cricket, Bumrah, possesses the best yorker today. Like Malinga, Bumrah has honed the hyperextension in his forearm to become a deadly accurate bowler. That's why you rarely see him bowl a half-volley when he is going for the yorker.
His idiosyncratic action and a late release, just like Malinga's, mean the batter picks the trajectory of the ball late. That's why when Bumrah bowls the yorker, you see batters are late on it, though the radar doesn't show extraordinary speeds. If he errs and sends down a full toss that is between knee and waist, you still see batters short on time.
Bumrah is also happy to try yorkers with the new ball, red or white. What really puts Malinga and Bumrah in a league of their own - ahead of the others in this article and bowlers such as T Natarajan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kagiso Rabada and Trent Boult - is the slower yorker.
Mitchell Starc
by Gaurav Sundararaman, senior stats analyst
Since Starc does not play T20s regularly, we do not get to enjoy his yorker as much as we'd like, but just watch the last two ODI World Cups and you will see how special his yorkers are. Since the start of 2015, Starc has bowled 515 yorkers in international cricket and taken 49 wickets. The next closest wicket-taker with yorkers is Bumrah, with 24.
Starc does not bowl yorkers just at the death. If there is a bit of swing available, he can be lethal with an inswinging one at the start of an innings, even in Tests.
Two Starc yorkers stand out for me: the one against Brendon McCullum in the 2015 World Cup final that set up the game for Australia, and this one against Ben Stokes at Lord's in the 2019 World Cup. In both cases, the batter was helpless despite picking the length.
Lockie Ferguson
Matt Roller, assistant editor
"If you execute it, [the yorker] is the hardest ball to hit," Tymal Mills told me earlier this year. "But it can also go wrong just as easily." Even the most reliable yorker bowlers in the world struggle to land them reliably, and the margin for error is minuscule: T Natarajan, who bowled more than twice as many yorkers as anyone else in the 2020 IPL, concedes more than 12 runs an over when he misses them and bowls full tosses or slot balls instead. Half of the skill is finding a way to avoid going round the park when the delivery doesn't quite go to plan.
That's the main reason I've chosen Ferguson, whose slot balls and full tosses remain relatively hard to hit. The perfect illustration of his effectiveness came in the 2019 World Cup, during the group-stage match against South Africa at Edgbaston. He rushed Faf du Plessis with a 149kph bouncer, leaving him camped on the back foot, then speared through a 148kph yorker to clean him up. A combination of raw pace and his idiosyncratic action makes it tough to pick the toe crusher, and harder still to score runs off it.
Ferguson's yorker highlights reel also includes dismissals of Manish Pandey in the 2020 IPL and Shikhar Dhawan in a 2018-19 T20I series, but even the balls that come out slightly wrong don't go for many. In T20Is, his 13 full tosses have cost only eight runs and his 54 full balls have brought four wickets and 59 runs.