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Feature

The future is uncertain, so savour Boult and Southee while you can

They're hoping this won't be their last global event together, but Boult's decision to step away from his NZC contract could complicate the issue

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
28-Oct-2022
Tim Southee and Trent Boult featured in their fourth World Cup final across formats, Australia vs New Zealand, T20 World Cup 2021, final, Dubai, November 14, 2021

Tim Southee and Trent Boult will look to inspire New Zealand to go one better than they did last year in the UAE  •  Getty Images

Trent Boult and Tim Southee. They are a bowling duo that roll of the tongue as one of great combinations of the game. It is a pairing that goes back through youth cricket, domestic cricket and now the highest level.
In terms of their strongest legacy, it will be their performances in Test cricket - currently a combined tally of 664 wickets - that will leave the most indelible mark although their feats at the 2015 ODI World Cup are not far behind.
Last year in the UAE they came close to delivering New Zealand their first global limited-overs prize aside from the 2000 Champions Trophy as they shared 21 wickets with a combined economy rate of 6.38 until stumbling at the final hurdle against Australia.
New Zealand have already gained a measure of revenge for that day, however, with their 89-run hammering of the hosts in the opening game of this tournament's Super 12s stage at the SCG. It was a result that gave them a head start to claiming that elusive silverware before rain in Melbourne left it probably feeling like a point lost rather than gained, although Afghanistan will believe that may not have been the case.
While Finn Allen and Devon Conway took the headlines against Australia, Boult and Southee were there, yet again, doing their thing: figures of 5 for 30 between them, in 6.1 overs. Boult's scalps may have come with the game well and truly decided, but he had started by giving David Warner a working-over that could have resulted in his wicket if second slip had not been moved out the ball before an outswinger took the edge. Few are such a threat with the new white ball as Boult.
No matter, though, because his partner in crime, Southee, needed just one ball, albeit with some luck involved, as Warner dragged onto his stumps via pad and the back of the bat. It was a wicket that took Southee to the top of the pile for men's T20I bowlers.
Then he gave a glimpse of his skills, and the variation he has added to his bowling over the years, when he had Mitchell Marsh taken in the deep off the second of two consecutive offcutters that held in the surface.
"If you're going to last a long time in the game you have to change with the times," Southee said about how he has evolved in T20s over an international career that has spanned 14 years. "The game is ever changing. Batters are discovering new shots, hitting different areas, and bowlers are trying to stay ahead as well."
However, whenever these two legends of New Zealand cricket - and the global game - are in operation there is one nagging feeling: how many more times will it be on show? There is no reason why Southee will be going anywhere in the near future, but Boult's career is heading down a different path after he recently stepped away from his New Zealand central contract.
"I guess the future is unknown," Southee said. "We've played a lot of cricket together from Under-19 World Cups to domestic cricket then for the last 10 or so years all three formats for New Zealand. It's been pretty special. I guess all good things come to an end at some stage. Hopefully it's not the end and not the last world event that we're a part of together.
"But we do certainly cherish every game we get to play together, and hopefully there's still a few more, obviously in this tournament and going beyond."
The selectors are still working through how Boult's position looks with the national side. While he was never going to be left out of this tournament, he has been told there is no guarantee he will be selected. He won't be available for the tour of Pakistan in December as he has a BBL deal which then runs into an ILT20 stint in the UAE. The first test of the new arrangement will likely come in the latter part of the New Zealand home season, when he may be available for selection.
Boult has stated his ambition of playing in next year's ODI World Cup and, barring an unforeseen decline, he will clearly still be worth his place, but it will be a delicate path to navigate if others have taken their chance in the intervening series when Boult has been playing elsewhere. Without doubt, though, New Zealand are a better team with him in. They have shown pragmatism and flexibility around the impact of the IPL, but it remains to be seen how far that extends.
For now, though, Southee and Boult have their immediate task at hand. Three more Super 12 matches, starting with Sri Lanka at the SCG on Friday, to secure a place in the semi-finals. But each time they take the field, savour them while you can. New Zealand may not see a pairing like them again.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo