Noticing Tim Southee

Another incredible bowler in a great era of seam

Tim Southee has been good for a long time.

But recently he's gone subatomic with his bowling average.

But a lot has been going on with Test quick bowling in that time. Jimmy Anderson has been incredible for so long he's making batting against him feel a bit silly. India did the entire Australia thing with a number of quicks. Australia has Pat Cummins. And these bigger nations suck the oxygen out of other conversations most of the time.

But Southee isn't just fighting against the bigger market teams; seam bowlers everywhere are getting headlines.

Eighteen of the top 20 bowlers by the ICC rankings are seamers. So every week someone seems to take a bag. The West Indies have Jason Holder, Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel. With a bunch of young talent as well. Suranga Lakmal has had an Ishant Sharma like transformation of his bowling average. Kagiso Rabada still exists, and he has Anrich Nortje as a backup. Pakistan has Mohammad Abbas - when they want him, Hasan Ali and Shaheen Afridi. This is the greatest seam bowling era since the 90s.

Last five years there are 26 bowlers with over 50 wickets, and 13 of them average under 25. Twenty-Five. Only two are over 30. Last three years two bowlers have a bowling average under 20 with over 50 wickets. If Southee had these numbers five years earlier, we'd be naming a stadium after him. Now he's just part of a killer wolf pack. Seamers are just going around fucking shit up.

And with New Zealand in the World Test final, they've got a bunch too.

Kyle Jamieson is currently averaging in the negative from his few Tests. Trent Boult is still one of the best seam bowlers globally, even if his figures just look normal compared to everyone else.  And Neil Wagner has created an alternative method of bowling that has been staggeringly effective.

That's just the seamers, New Zealand has also had Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls and BJ Watling with the bat who need some attention. Plus everyone loves Kane Williamson, and there is also Ross Taylor. There are a lot of underrated or underappreciated cricketers in New Zealand to give air to.

So it's not that Southee hasn't been good, or even great over the last few years; it's that so has kind of everyone else. But when you see a tweet like this one, you realise how weird all this has been.

But look at how random the search is. Since 2018 this is Southee's seventh away Test. They only play to their own market. They are at best the second biggest sport - well actually probably third, as daylight is the next biggest after Rugby. They have a small population and a tiny press contingent. So they don't visit your country much to impress you, they don't play many Tests anyway, and even as they got the World Test Championship, they didn't get any hype.

Tim Southee has 300 wickets, but there always seems to be a bigger story around. He has moments of brilliant madness, where it seems he will take all the wickets without need for his partners to take any. But he's tall, but not that tall, he's fast-medium, even if his bouncer can be fun. And he has personality, but he's not exactly Merv Hughes or Sreesanth.

Not to mention that he's also old news, like he's not actually that old. But he's been around since he was a teenager. And since he came on the scene, New Zealand seemed to find a new seamer every couple of years. First Boult, then Wagner and now Jamieson. But it's Southee is third all-time to Vettori and Hadlee.

And he's done all this being a relatively old fashioned cricketer. Along with Anderson, he's probably one of the few true outswing bowlers left in cricket. He's evolved beyond our traditional notion of an outswing bowler. But that's still what he is, someone who bowls many abnormally swinging balls at and around off stump. And like Anderson, he's just come very good the more he's bowled in Tests.

After more than a decade and 69 matches, Southee was still averaging over 30. He was a great new ball force, but often struggled later in the innings. And often wasn't as useful in other countries. And he's had periods when he was young where he struggled, periods later of good form, but there was always a dip. Right now, he's been as good as he's ever been, and for a far longer period.

Tim Southee Cumulative average

And while he's improved with the new ball lately: he's never been poor there. It's with the old ball he's been obscene. Until the start of 2018, Southee averaged 30.5 with the ball from overs 40-80; since then it's been 15.6. That is not a typo. Now part of this might have been helped by the fact Wagner has been bouncing everyone to death. But you don't expect Southee to be like this with the old ball.

But he has been incredible for a while, we just haven't noticed. There has been bigger teams, other wickets and his own teammates stealing the show. But while it's true Tim Southee has been good for a very long time, now he's also been amazing for a decent stretch as well.