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Kyle Jamieson hits the heights with absurdly brilliant beginning

He's taken four five-fors in six Tests, and he's kryptonite to left-handers. How far can he go?

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
It's the height you notice first. At 6'8", he's the tallest man to ever play cricket for New Zealand, and that'll lead you to make assumptions about the kind of bowler he might be. He is perhaps a length bowler who exploits the bounce. Or a short-ball fiend being groomed to take over from whenever Neil Wagner has to be dragged off the cricket field. Or an enforcer following on from the nice-guy acts of Tim Southee and Trent Boult.
Kyle Jamieson is all of those things, and yet if you feel you have a read on him, you're wrong. In the six Tests he has played so far, he has shown he can take wickets at every stage of an innings, and it isn't the height that appears to enable him - though it must surely help - as much as the frightening skill he possesses. He has taken wickets because of that frame - the ball to dismiss Fawad Alam in the first innings at Hagley Oval the most striking example - but he has struck with new ball and old ball, with swing and seam, at the top and tail of the order, and against right-handers and left-handers.
Of the 11 wickets he claimed during the second Test against Pakistan, five were of right-handers and six of lefties. Five wickets fell to length balls, two to shorter deliveries, a further two to bouncers, while the full ball claimed another couple. He broke partnerships, and he ran through innings.
But for now, he remains kryptonite for left-handers. When he finally did the decent thing and brought Haris Sohail's miserable tour to an end - he had provided a similarly generous service for the struggling Shan Masood yesterday - it was his 12th career wicket against left handers. His 13th, Faheem Ashraf, brought his average against that type of batsman down to a scarcely credible 8.61 runs per wicket. This Test was the first time in Pakistan's Test history that they fielded six lefties; for Jamieson it was like Christmas had come, a week late.
But it was the man he would dismiss for his fifth second-innings wicket - the one that brought up a 10-wicket haul that showcased his prodigious talent. The ball was 52 overs old, and Southee, the most in-form New Zealand quick of the past couple of years, was having limited success with it. Facing him was Pakistan captain Mohammad Rizwan, and man with five successive Test half-centuries before this innings.
Looking to be positive, Rizwan transferred his weight forward convincingly to lean into a cover drive. It's a motion he has repeated often, on the treacherous tracks of Pakistan's domestic cricket as well as against Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, Stuart Broad and James Anderson, and each New Zealand bowler this series. The gap between bat and pad was small, but with Jamieson in this sort of mood, so was the margin for error. The ball landed outside off stump and tailed in so sharply and at such pace there was no hope of readjusting. By the time Rizwan was through his cover-drive motion, the bails lay flat at the feet of the stumps. It was the Aucklander's 35th Test wicket, his average a shade over 13; he has so far struck every 33.4 balls in Test cricket. Among bowlers with at least 30 wickets, only Duanne Olivier boasts a better strike rate.
So little is known about Jamieson outside New Zealand that cricket's equivalent of the CIA might well be maintaining a dossier on him. While being among the top three wicket-takers in each of the three series he has played has catapulted him to global attention, he has ploughed his trade impressively for years, albeit in the relative obscurity of New Zealand's domestic circuit, for over six years. Jamieson's first-class average of 21.14 across 34 matches outdoes the equivalent numbers of any of Southee, Boult, or Wagner, but while Southee was handed his Test cap as a teenager and Boult shortly after his 21st birthday, Jamieson was allowed to continue developing without the distractions and pressures of international cricket until last year.
The ball might not do as much some days, the lengths might be off some others. But even over leaner periods, Jamieson will appreciate the value of being part of this tight-knit, well-managed and supportive unit
This is both the best and worst time to be a New Zealand fast bowler. The level of competition for those slots is beyond compare, but in the secure hands of Kane Williamson, Gary Stead and New Zealand's management skills, the harmony of the squad is beyond reproach. It is a side that continues to feel niche and in touch, far away, (literally, geographically speaking) from the big-time trappings that have made England, India or Australia powerhouses in a more palpable way. But when it comes to the stuff they produce on the field, New Zealand match, and at times exceed, what those three produce; the fact that they played the last two World Cup finals, and are in pole position to qualify for the World Test Championship final at Lord's next summer, are evidence of this.
Jamieson won't need telling, but it can only get worse from here. He hasn't yet played abroad, which will offer a deeper glimpse of his adaptability, as well as a sterner test of his quality. You dread to say it, but that frame and the exigent demands of modern cricket means there likely will be injuries. The ball might not do as much some days, the lengths might be off some others.
But even over leaner periods, Jamieson will appreciate the value of being part of this tight-knit, well-managed and supportive unit. Boult has been relatively injury-free for this long because he's been taken good care of. Southee remains lethal in both Test and T20I cricket because his back injury and drier spells have been handled with sensitivity, and Wagner bowled out Pakistan on one foot through excruciating pain because he believed this was a group he was willing to suffer for.
After the series was all wrapped up, Jamieson said he viewed himself "very much as the fourth prong of this four-man attack", and that he was looking to "sit back and learn from what these world-class bowlers have done over a number of years". In just a year of Test cricket, he's brought a whole new dimension to an attack that was already New Zealand's greatest. Imagine how much scarier he can get with all that sitting back and learning.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000