Is Scott Boland the greatest bowler since liquid manure?

No, but at times it may feel that way when facing him.

How do you face the third greatest bowler in the history of Test cricket? Not well, as it turns out.

And yeah, it is possible that Boland is not the third best bowler in the history of cricket. But he currently has the third best average. And the guys in front of him largely bowled when cricket pitches were made with little crumbs of cow shit on them. So what he is doing is not like the others.

It is a remarkable record for a bowler who started his career as a fairly ordinary bowler. And I say that as a Victorian. Like if you talked to my dad, he will tell you Australia would have beaten India 4-0 in the last BGT if Boland had played all the way through. But I remember seeing him bowl a lot early on, and there was no sign he was anything like this. You can see that over his first four years he struggled to average under 30. And even as he got better, he wasn’t dominating for a long time before coming in.

That last year is when he played Tests by the way. Crazy.

Boland in my mind was a good decent player. As much was he did well, there was no push for him to be a Test player. Of the Victorian bowlers in that era, I could have been convinced that Chris Tremain could have had a decent international career. Certainly that Dan Worrall would, I mean, he can bowl outswing at 90MPH. Boland just was never at their level.

It would be a lie to say Boland had no good moments. My favourite was when NSW needed four runs from three balls with plenty of wickets in hand. NSW should have won this match.

He puts in a really good yorker. It is hit back to him, and he runs out the non-striker.

The next ball, the exact same thing happens. He delivered two quality yorkers, the non-strikers took off on both occasions, the ball came back to him and he took the bails off both times.

And then the last ball he bowled a short one and chased the batter to win the game. This wasn’t front page news, it was just the level that Boland was playing back then, and to most people, where he would say.

But because he took a lot of wickets for Victoria, he was really brought in as an MCG specialist. I have made a video before about he was clearly a lot more than that. However, that is what guaranteed his big break.

Of course, it was some break. When you take 6/7, specialist or not, you’re getting more games. He continued to take wickets after that as well.

So how did a first-class bowler with a decent record become one of the best players of all time? At least, by average.

To tell that story, you need to know about Peter Siddle. In 2019, Siddle became a very important cricketer for Australia, despite the fact his best years were well behind him. He was chosen for Australia not just as a bowler, but also as the wobbleball whisperer.

That would be a hell of a business card by the way.

The point of all of this is that Siddle played his last year for Victoria in 2019/20. Fresh off the back of his success bowling the wobbleball for Essex, and teaching it to the Australians.

So this is the year that Siddle is probably teaching Boland this ball. It’s interesting that it ends up being his worst year in a long time. But off the back of it his has two of his four best ever.

Am I saying with certainty that this is where Scott Boland learned the wobbleball? No. Am I saying this is possibly where he perfected it? Yeah.

That one delivery turned a good first-class bowler into a menace. Australia might have thought they were picking a MCG specialist, but they were really picking a machine.

Because even without this one ball, Boland had skills. He is so accurate. And he’s not slow, like many bowlers who can do this they might be low 80s or high 70MPH an hour. Boland can hit this spot while bowling at Mid to high 80s. That makes him hard to hit off his length, so he can dictate more than other metronomic bowlers.

You are going to have to deal with clusters like this. There is something else here, he is bowling bowling a lot of balls that are outside the line of off stump. But most of these balls will feel to a batter like they are hitting the stumps. Why is that?

Well, Boland collapses when he bowls. Instead of having the braced front leg like Cameron Green here, he has a bent leg. This means that he doesn’t get as much height on the ball as the other Australian quicks. It means he hits the wickets more.

But his collapse is also a little different. He leans right across at release, and the ball is then aimed in at the batter. Look at where his body is, he’s right up against the stumps. And yet his arm is out here, meaning it feels like he comes from close to the stumps but in truth he does not. Every ball is quite angled in to you.

If you haven’t faced him before, it is this angle that can take you off guard. You know who hasn’t seen him before, Shubman Gill.

To be fair, he didn’t seem to see much more here. What he believed was a ball outside off stump that almost ended up on middle.

If you look at the ball, you can see exactly why Gill thought this. Here let me freeze it on the bounce and ask you if you would think a ball pitching here from a bowler near the umpire would go on to hit the stumps. This has come back a long way from here to hit the stumps. It is an incredible delivery.

This was a ball that came back an awful long way.

In fact, shall we check in with our dear kind and handsome friends at CricViz. They have it as the tenth best ball delivered by an Aussie bowler in their system. They said it was a 33% chance of a wicket. That it seamed 1.3 degrees. And my favourite bit, that the expected average of this ball is 0.5. That means you are more likely to de dismissed than make a run. The ball that bowled Gill was fire. So he was bowled by an unplayable ball he did not play.

What Boland delivered  was a wobbleball. Meaning that before all this occurred, Gill did not know it was coming in.

So what I am saying is that Boland is the most perfect bowler in the post-cowshit era of cricket.

Except, I found one thing to disprove all this. This is Boland’s average versus right-handers and left-handers. There is no doubt at this point that Boland is not bowling well to left-handers. He loses his length a lot more, his metronome falls off the piano.

It isn’t terrible, I mean he is still averaging less than 30. But he doesn’t look like Scott Boland - the greatest bowler since liquid manure - when bowling to lefties, he just looks like any other bowler.

Of course if this is true, Scott Boland does look like one of the best against batters who stand on the correct side of their bat. He is averaging 11.72 against them. That will go up, because it has too. But that he has held it for this long is simply remarkable.