Following on from our initial analysis of the best Big Bash bowling performances of the past ten years, here is the second part of our look at the stand-out displays from each side since the start of the competition. Our analysis takes a look at the cricket statistics and data behind the top bowling accomplishments of the final four teams.
Melbourne Stars – Lasith Malinga 4-1-7-6 vs Perth Scorchers, 12/12/12
The invention of T20 cricket soon brought with it a plethora of bowling variations and a need for unorthodox methods and mindsets. At almost the same time as T20 began to really take-off, so too did the career of Lasith Malinga – the king of unorthodoxy. His horizontal bowling arm in delivery is unparalleled and brings with it the kind of unique challenges required to test batsmen looking to hit almost every ball to the boundary. His repertoire of skiddy bouncers and slow- and fast-paced yorkers, aiming in on the batsman’s toes like an Exocet missile, made him at one time the world’s premier white-ball bowler, and it was during this period, in December 2012, that he recorded what are still the best bowling figures in the BBL, with 6/7 against the Perth Scorchers – made even more remarkable when you consider that two of the runs he gave away were wides. The Sri Lankan paceman was at the top of his game in this mercurial display of fast bowling at the WACA, demonstrating his ability to remove batsmen with vicious pace combined with stunning variety.
Marcus North was the first to go, bowled by a searing yorker before future Stars mainstay Marcus Stoinis could then only fend a back-of-a-length delivery to point. Stoinis’ dismissal saw the Scorchers drop to 16/4, although the Western Australian team did rebuild somewhat to take the scorecard to 50 before their next wicket fell. With the middle- and lower-order now in sight Malinga came into his own, removing Hilton Cartwright and Nathan Coulter-Nile – again, two men who would go on to represent the Melburnians in years to come – in the space of three deliveries in the 13th over: Cartwright mistiming a slower ball to midwicket, Coulter-Nile missing a slow, dipping yorker to be hit plumb in-front. With Perth reduced to 55/7, Malinga cleaned up the later wickets by trapping Tom Triffitt lbw and then deceiving Joe Mennie with a slower-ball yorker to wrap up his incredible figures. His ball-by-ball innings tracker can be seen below, with each colour representing a given over and the X shapes signifying a wicket.
His first over was his most expensive, going for three runs (which in itself speaks volumes for the majesty of his spell), but it did include the wicket of North. The dismissal of Stoinis was within a wicket maiden in Malinga’s second over, whilst his third went for the same number of runs as wickets were taken – two. His fourth and final again yielded two victims, but this time for just the one run conceded. His overall figures can be compared to the other bowlers in the match below.
Three of Malinga’s teammates were also in the wickets, James Faulkner bowling four overs to collect figures of 2/16, including a maiden, whilst Shane Warne and Luke Wright both took one scalp apiece with returns of 1/9 and 1/7 respectively. The only Stars bowler who did not have a particularly successful match was Clint McKay, the right-armer sending down three overs for 28 with no wickets, meaning he was the one man in green to go at more than a run-a-ball.
This was Malinga at his absolute best. His devastating spell obliterated the Scorchers and set up a ten-wicket win for his side (albeit on DLS), all of which was brought about thanks to his outstanding bowling display.
Sydney Sixers – Ben Dwarshuis 4-0-7-3 vs Adelaide Strikers, 29/1/19
With the rise of the franchise tournament throughout the past decade or so, and all the glitz and glamour that goes with recruiting some of the biggest names in world cricket, there has generally been a constant in all of the sides who have proved to be successful. Although there is a temptation to splash the cash on world-renowned stars, due to the constraints of how many overseas players can be used in a given match it is often the core of local players that dictates the overall success of the franchise. With the Sydney Sixers being one of the most successful BBL sides to date with two titles – behind only the Perth Scorchers’ trio of wins – much of their joy has come about thanks to the talented group of Australian players they hold. One of those, Ben Dwarshuis, is the man who can hold claim to producing the best Sixers bowling spell to date, producing outstanding figures of 3/7 against the Adelaide Strikers in BBL08.
Whereas others previously in our list have seen their wickets come by genuinely outstanding deliveries, Dwarshuis’ scalps here were less about deceiving batsmen and more about wearing them down with dot ball after dot ball, not allowing them any freebies to score from and thereby seeing the frustration build in batsmen. His ball-by-ball worm below indicates his stringent nature.
The mountain of dots he sent down early on – ten of his first 11 deliveries – led to Jake Weatherald being unable to contain his irritance at being tied down as he tried to smash the ball out of the SCG but only succeeded in skying it to Moises Henriques at mid-off. Although a couple of singles were gained from his next couple of balls bowled, the Strikers only had 71 runs on the board as the 12th over came to a close. As a result, in their quest to accelerate the run rate Jon Wells was the next man to look to take the momentum away from Dwarshuis, but as he stepped off in order to create an unorthodox angle to score from saw his leg-stump taken out. The harder the Strikers tried to score the more they played into the Sixers’ hands, and Jake Lehmann became the left-armer’s third victim as his attempted to clear the ropes from a fuller ball but was instead caught by Jordan Silk running back from cover. Dwarshuis’ display can be seen below in comparison to the other bowlers in the match.
Not only did the New South Welshman have the best economy of the game with a miserly 1.75, but he was also the only bowler to take more than a couple of wickets, teammate Sean Abbott the only other player to take more than one with his figures of 2/25. No Strikers bowler could even match this, with Michael Neser (1/11) and Billy Stanlake (1/37) the only two to even take a wicket, given that the Sixers eventually chased down their target to win by eight wickets. The canny Ben Laughlin had a respectable economy of 4.33 from his three overs but went wicketless, whilst superstar Afghani leg-spinner Rashid Khan did not enjoy one of his better days with figures of 0/39 from his four overs.
Dwarshuis is the Sixers’ second-highest wicket-taker since the start of the BBL, behind only Abbott’s 91 with his tally of 77 to date, and this was arguably his finest display of the 66 appearances he has made. His height and left-arm angle are a menace for batsmen on a normal day, but here he was at his absolute best to strangle the Strikers and lead his side to victory.
Sydney Thunder – Daniel Sams 2-0-5-3 vs Melbourne Stars, 21/12/18
The rise of Daniel Sams has been nothing short of rapid. Having only made his first-class debut in 2017, his opening Big Bash appearance followed in the winter of that year as he pulled on the magenta of the Sydney Sixers for a season before transferring to their cross-city rivals the Sydney Thunder ahead of BBL08. He then earned his first Indian Premier League contract in 2020, signing for the Delhi Capitals, a little over three years after his introduction to the professional game.
Sams has become an integral part of the Thunder’s squad since his move to Spotless Stadium with his powerful middle-order hitting and effective left-arm pace bowling, and his display against the Melbourne Stars in his Thunder debut is what sees him take his place in our list.
Having initially struck 34 from 21 balls with the bat to take his team to a total 181, he then claimed three wickets for just five runs from his two overs, including the prized scalp of captain Glenn Maxwell, to restrict the Stars to just 74 as they chased their rain-affected target of 90 in eight overs. With the Stars having to score at over ten runs-per-over if they were to reach their required score they were always going to look to tee off straight away, and Sams was able to capitalise on this with his accurate bowling. His bowling innings worm can be seen below.
The first ball of Sams’ spell saw him snaffle his first scalp, trapping Travis Dean lbw as he looked to step across his stumps and access behind square on the leg-side. That wasn’t quite enough for the left-armer though, as he then had Maxwell, arguably the biggest danger in the Stars’ side, caught at deep mid-wicket for a duck off the final ball – not a bad start to his first over in a Thunder shirt, especially when coupled with only two runs given away, one of which was a wide. When he returned for his second, he bowled a dot first up to Evan Gulbis – who was ten from just three balls – before bowling him next ball as he missed a sweep and was dismissed, reducing the Stars to 55/6 with just ten balls left. He then conceded only two more singles before the end of his spell, meaning he produced the second-most economic spell of a Thunder bowler in the history of the BBL, a record only broken by Adam Milne on January 24 this year. How he compared to the other bowlers in the match, though, is seen below.
His economy of 2.5 was over three runs better than the next-most economical bowler in Adam Zampa, who finished with an economy of 5.75, although Sams’ wicket tally was one better than the leg-spinner’s. Zampa’s teammate Sandeep Lamichhane also took two wickets but at a higher economy (9.00), whilst four players took just the single wicket. The closest teammate of Sams to challenge him was Chris Green, who took one wicket at a run-a-ball from his six balls bowled.
Although Sams’ season with the Sixers was respectable, it is since his move to the Thunder that he has really taken the BBL by storm and made his name known around the cricketing world. Even though he has been a fine performer throughout his entire time with the Thunder, arguably his finest performance with the ball took place in his first match.
Perth Scorchers – Mitchell Johnson 4-2-3-3 vs Melbourne Stars, 24/1/17
Even in the latter stages of his career, Mitchell Johnson was still able to terrorise batsmen as he did in his moustachioed, England-bashing heyday. Due to international commitments, he was only able to play in his country’s domestic T20 franchise competition once, for the Perth Scorchers in BBL06, but he certainly made a huge impact in his one season in the tournament. He was fourth in the wicket-taking chart with 13 but also had a lower average (15.46) of anybody with ten wickets or more, and the third-best economy (5.91) of anyone, the two bowlers above him (Stephen O’Keefe and Travis Head) having only taken three wickets each.
His finest performance came in the semi-final against the Melbourne Stars, where he recorded frankly ridiculous figures of four overs, two maidens, three runs conceded and three wickets. He blew away the Stars’ top order, dismissing numbers one, two and three to place the Scorchers’ foot firmly on their Melburnian rivals’ throat from the beginning, never letting them get away as they could only set a below-par target of 136. Rob Quiney was his first victim, from the opening ball of the match, as he could only flick a ball from his hip straight down fine leg’s throat to give Perth the perfect start to the game. His initial over was not done there, though, as Luke Wright could only fend a back-of-a-length delivery straight to gully from the fourth ball, meaning Johnson started with a double-wicket maiden. He then followed that up with a second maiden from his second over, whilst old English foe Kevin Pietersen hit the first ball of Johnson’s third to mid-wicket – meaning he had, at one point, figures of 3/0. In fact, the first run he conceded came from the final ball of the third, although two more were given away from his last over. The ball-by-ball worm of his spell is seen below.
When analysing how he compared to the other bowlers of the match, Johnson’s economy of 0.75 is way ahead of anyone else, Ben Hilfenhaus coming the closest with his rate of 5.33 as he was the only other bowler to go a less than a run-a-ball.
The wickets were shared around in the match as a whole, with only three out of the nine players who bowled not taking a wicket, all of which were on the Stars’ side. However, nobody else took more than one, meaning the left-armer not only had a far better economy but was also the greatest wicket-taking threat of anybody in the game.
Despite his time in the league being relatively short, the experienced campaigner’s skill and expertise were there for all to see. There is no doubt that this was his shining display of the tournament, and he was a huge part in his side ultimately ending up as champions.