Scott Boland currently has the best bowling average of all time.
Now sure, I gerrymandered this to make it so, but regardless of that, Scott Boland has played a Test match and has a bowling average of 7.85. Often, I drop the part after the decimal point and just round up, but calling this eight feels wrong.
He took 6/7, every single part of this needs to be spoken out very clearly, but the absurdity of what has happened here should not be undersold—the greatest horses for courses selection of all time.
And he did it at home, on his pitch, I mean, at this point, it must be considered his. That he did this after being overlooked not just by Australia for a decade, but he never even got a county gig. He looks like the most county bowler you'll find.
Boland is not the missing link in bowling evolution, in fact, he's not really that unique. He's basically the kind of bowler that does well in England. A fast-medium accurate seamer who can move it both ways. He's a very good version of that, but it is still not that remarkable to find a bowler of his skills.
He should always be a handful on a pitch that helps him because of his exaggerated movement, strength, and decent enough pace. On less responsive Test wickets, his lack of speed might be a problem, but there is no problem with his talent level.
And it's worth noting why he was bowling in this match. It is partly because he is very good at the MCG and also because Michael Neser is very bad there.
Boland averages 13 over the last three years at the MCG, he should thank Alastair Cook's double hundred for changing the wicket. But is only 18 in the previous five years. But here is where it all gets interesting. The narrative about him being an MCG specialist is not quite true. He also has a better record at the Adelaide Oval than Neser who had taken 12 wickets in six matches going into the 2nd Test. His average actually came down in that match.
None of this suggests that Boland should have been chosen for Adelaide over Neser. Boland is not an expert in Adelaide the same way he is at the MCG, because that is his home. Neser also brings batting talent, if not as an all rounder, then at the very least as a tail strengthener. He will certainly never be good enough to bat at seven, judging by his first class record, but he gives something there that Boland can't.
Michael Neser is a good player, and should be considered a squad member on a lot of tours. And in all honesty, I don't really understand how he has struggled at the MCG. But Boland is a very good cricketer, and he shouldn't be seen as an MCG only player.
This is the two players records at the Gabba, Neser's home ground. And Neser has been incredible here, in fact, Neser has been better at the Gabba throughout his entire career than Boland has been at the MCG, which is funny.
But it's also weird that Boland is better at the Gabba than Neser - from obviously far fewer matches.
Boland is really good at almost all Test grounds in Australia. If they were to use him at the SCG, which probably depends on Josh Hazlewood as much as anything. He's good there.
The only Test pitch that Boland struggles on is Bellerive; on every other Australian pitch he takes wickets at less than 25.
He isn't a one pitch freak.
That's not to say that this pitch didn't suit him, it's clear from the numbers and the whole 6/7 thing that it does. With Mitchell Starc's delivery to Ben Stokes, you could see that even he - a non-seam bowler - got huge movement from the surface.
Scott Boland is no one Test guy on talent. But because of Australia's pace bowling stocks, he might end up that way. Jhye Richardson is an extraordinary bowler, Michael Neser adds batting, and if Boland's mate James Pattinson comes out of retirement, he moves further down the depth chart list.
Boland is something else as well, indigenous. He is only the fourth indigenous player to represent Australia in Tests. That number is low because so many indigenous bowlers were called for chucking in the early part of Australian cricket. Unlike other Australian sports, indigenous athletes were not given ample opportunities to play for their nation. Or even be professionals.
Probably the most famous case is Eddie Gilbert, a bowler so skilful that in the space of a few balls he knocked the bat out of Don Bradman's hand and then dismissed him. He was at least part of the inspiration for Bodyline.
Bradman, and many others, dismissed him as a chucker, though. As people had with previous indigenous bowlers.
This is from my book:
There is no doubt he had a weird bowling action. He had a very little run-up, and there aren't many fast five foot seven bowlers with proper actions. To get the pace of Gilbert from that tiny a body, you have to use everything you've got. Gilbert's action was probably similar to that of Jeff Thomson or the West Indian Fidel Edwards. It was a catapult fling at the crease. Alan McGilvray, the voice of Australian cricket, said it was hard to even tell if he was chucking, as his arm moved so quickly.
Gilbert found it very tough to play shield cricket even when he wasn't being called a chucker. Those running the settlement would take most of his playing wage, which made it hard for him to afford equipment and travel. Not to mention he had to get permission to leave the settlement in the first place.
After 23 matches, 87 wickets, 28 average, 56 strike rate, Gilbert was left back on his settlement. He struggled with drink and gambling, and in 1950 ended up in a mental health hospital. They tried shock treatment to fix him, but he had Alzheimer's, so it was just useless torture. The thought of that amazing bowler being strapped down and unable to free those pace bowling arms is horrifying. Gilbert spent his next 28 years what was then called a insane asylum.
At nights he would often be found wandering around a cricket pitch next to the hospital. That ground is now the Eddie Gilbert Memorial Oval.
The first indigenous Test player was Faith Thomas. Who bowled off six steps, and according to her, got quick by chucking stones at galahs. Dan Christian, Ashleigh Gardner, Darcy Short and Jason Gillespie have all represented Australia now as well.
Hopefully Scott Boland won't be a one-Test wonder, but his record at least suggests he is more than a horse than a course. And Boland is many things, so watching him have a magical moment at home was so beautiful.