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02 October 2023

Tim Southee, master of mayhem

New Zealand bowler Tim Southee celebrates after taking his seventh wicket during their Cricket World Cup match against England in Wellington, New Zealand, Friday Feb. 20, 2015. (AP)


If Brendon McCullum's record-breaking pyrotechnics in New Zealand's eight-wicket rout of England could have been anticipated, then Tim Southee's seven-wicket haul was more of a shock to the system.

Until Friday, the 26-year-old seamer appeared the picture of reliability, the steady, cool hand on the new ball in 39 Tests for New Zealand and 87 ODIs.

It's a career that has yielded 136 wickets in Tests and now 127 in one-dayers courtesy of his astonishing seven for 33 wrecking-ball of a performance against a hapless England at Wellington's Westpac Stadium.

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The promise was always there for Southee, when as a raw 19-year-old he marked his Test debut with five for 55 against England at Napier in 2008.

For good measure, the teenager, who excelled at rugby in his school days, also hit 77 off 40 balls with nine sixes, the most by a debutant in Test history.

That score remains his best in Tests although his best bowling analysis has since been boosted in the longer form of the game.

His seven for 64 against India in Bangalore in 2012, the best figures by a New Zealand bowler in India and quite an achievement for a seamer on the sub-continent's low, slow pitches.

He was a shining light again at the 2011 World Cup, also staged in Asia, with 18 wickets in a tournament where New Zealand reached the semi-finals.

South African pace great Allan Donald, when he was working as a bowling coach with the Black Caps at the 2011 World Cup, went on record to claim that Southee could become the greatest swing bowler of all-time.

"The first thing I said to him when I met him was - 'I want you to take the responsibility of leading this attack. As young as you are, I want you to take that responsibility because you could become the best swing bowler in world cricket'," Donald said.

"I want you to believe that but also it's what you do on the field and off the field that will determine the respect you get."

Southee has certainly benefitted from the globe-trotting career of the modern cricketer, with spells in the grind of the English county system with Essex and lucrative visits to the Indian Premier League with Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals.

And the highlights for a player who relaxes by returning to his family's farm in the far north of New Zealand?

"I have a few. Beating Australia in Australia for the first time in something like 26 years was pretty amazing to be a part of," he said.

"Also being named in the World Cup tournament team for the World Cup in India was pretty special. And my Test debut for a few reasons, it was the first time playing for New Zealand in a Test and also getting five wickets and the fastest Test fifty by a New Zealander."

Despite those landmarks, Friday's masterclass in mayhem in Wellington will take some beating.