Men's ODI World Cup 2019

Death-bowling spot wide open: Fleming

The ‘closer’ for Australia’s 1999 World Cup triumph says the BBL could help unearth a late-innings specialist

Louis Cameron

13 July 2018, 03:05 PM AEST

Damien Fleming, the man entrusted with death-bowling duties by the winner of the most recent World Cup held in the United Kingdom, believes the KFC Big Bash League may unearth the bowler best suited to perform that role for Australia at the forthcoming showpiece event.

Less than a year out from next year's World Cup in the UK where they'll defend their 50-over crown, Australia find themselves at an all-time low in the format.

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All but two of their last 18 one-day internationals have ended in defeat, with a five-game series against England - a supposed dress rehearsal for next year's main event - ending in a 0-5 series sweep last month.

Fleming, a vital cog in Australia's 1999 World Cup triumph, notes the Aussies' failure to put competitive totals together with the bat during their barren stretch has admittedly made life hard for the bowlers, while the absence of star trio Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins hardly helped on their most recent campaign.

And while the 48-year-old, who claimed 134 wickets at 25 in a seven-and-a-half-year career with the ODI side, is concerned about Australia's ability to restrict batters late in an innings, he believes the answer to their troubles could be found in this summer's BBL.

"Who's our best death bowler? I don't think we know who our best closing bowler is," new Channel Seven commentator Fleming told at the network’s season launch. "Where bowlers (on the fringes) can get a gig is with death bowling. 

"The challenge for our domestic bowlers and in the Big Bash, is to put your hand up to bowl the tough overs at the end. 

"Because if you're the best closer in the Big Bash or in the 50-over format, you might get yourself a ticket to England. 

"That last spot (in the World Cup squad) I reckon is up for grabs and it's the specialist death bowler. You are playing this summer trying to get yourself into that World Cup team." 

As Ricky Ponting noted this week, Australia still have 16 ODIs before their World Cup opener against Afghanistan to settle on the best 15 players for that tournament.

If the make-up of the 15 they picked for last year's Champions Trophy in the UK is anything to go by, a specialist middle and/or late overs fast bowler would appear a likely inclusion for the World Cup, with the now-retired John Hastings filling that role for the 2017 ICC event won by Pakistan.

An analysis of the best death bowlers in last season's BBL suggests there could be some lurking gems in the mix to perform those duties.

According to statistics provided by CricViz, eight bowlers managed an economy rate of nine or less in the last five overs of an innings, with star Adelaide Strikers recruit Rashid Khan the clear standout with an economy rate of 5.37.

His fellow title-winning teammate Peter Siddle was BBL|08's best fast death-overs paceman, going at 6.87 runs per over at the death.

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Behind him were Perth Scorchers trio Andrew Tye (7.24), Matt Kelly (8.16), Mitchell Johnson (8.33), followed by Melbourne Renegades quick Kane Richardson (8.40) and first-year Brisbane Heat bowler Brendan Doggett (8.85).

Siddle would appear only an outside chance to add to his 17 ODIs, the last of which was played nearly eight years ago, though he was also last season’s JLT One-Day Cup's most miserly bowler, going at just 3.95 runs per over in seven 50-over matches for Victoria.

Despite some challenges in the recent ODI series, Tye and the two Richardsons would appear the front-runners to be Australia's death-bowling specialist at next year's World Cup. 

"I really like the bowlers who were there (in the UK) in (Billy) Stanlake, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Tye and (Michael) Neser," Fleming continued. 

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"But If you're only scoring 250 and you're trying to bowl out an England team over there, you have to bowl a bit differently."


Rashid Khan (Adelaide Strikers) – 5.3

Peter Siddle (Adelaide Strikers) – 6.87

Andrew Tye (Perth Scorchers) – 7.24

Matt Kelly (Perth Scorchers) – 8.16

Mitchell Johnson (Perth Scorchers) – 8.33

Kane Richardson (Melbourne Renegades) – 8.40

Brendan Doggett (Brisbane Heat) – 8.85

Jofra Archer (Hobart Hurricanes) – 9.00