What precisely is the anatomy of a good final over, especially in T20 cricket?
The only real criteria is that it should yield as few runs as possible. Wickets are very much a bonus. If you ask Proteas bowling coach Allan Donald about it, he’ll adamantly tell you that his bowlers require a varied arsenal of tricks.
You won’t find a better illustration of this knowledge hopelessness than the one Dale Steyn delivered to spearhead South Africa’s tense two-run win over New Zealand on Monday.
It was indeed a match-winner and he certainly deserves credit for keeping his head. But if you’re going to review those six deliveries, there’s a strong argument to be made that Steyn’s over could’ve been fatally flawed.
First, a bit of context. Captain Faf du Plessis had a bit of a conundrum before the 19th over. He had to choose between the Morkel brothers who’d take responsibility. Albie had been steady, as his two overs cost 13 and bagged a scalp, but his implosions at the death are well-documented. Or he needed to trust lanky Morne, who had leaked 36 runs off his first two overs.
Du Plessis chose Morne and it proved to be horribly misguided. He conceded a further 14 and the equation had been whittled down to seven off six.
Steyn hustles in and delivers a quick one outside off to Luke Ronchi. It’s reasonably full, but also possible to get under. Ronchi though, backs away too far and Quinton de Kock takes a fine catch off a thick edge. Had he stood still, the result probably might’ve been different.
Nathan McCullum walks to the crease. Steyn sends down another quick one with a similar line. McCullum bafflingly tries to connect at that decent speed and misses. Taylor remains stuck at the non-striker’s end.
Ball three and a 148km/h thunderbolt is unleashed. It’s once again short of a length, but it’s awkward and McCullum needs to manufacture a flick to leg, which he misses. Arguably the best delivery of the lot.
The fourth delivery goes for four as McCullum, despite shuffling a bit, remains still at the vital moment and whacks another length ball over the in-field.
The shot gives credence to the suspicion that a more composed batter would’ve made the game safe long before.
It’s the penultimate delivery and it amazingly remains short and even wider. But McCullum dances around the crease again and gets a top edge. Du Plessis takes a fine catch, but Taylor is finally on strike.
What is Steyn to do? Steyn wins it by keeping it fullish and outside off as Taylor cramps himself up by trying to go to leg.
More importantly, Steyn does the job by actually not bowling one yorker or one bouncer or one slower ball. Turns out that predictability can work in a final over.
Will it work next time?