Unplayable magnificence

Thankfully no one told Stuart Broad to get ready for a broken fu**ing foot.  That would’ve been a costly sledge.  Thankfully Mitchell Johnson’s yorker, that most magnificent of deliveries, didn’t break Broad’s foot.

Thankfully someone finally bowled a yorker.

Moments after Johnson took Broad out of the third Test with a classic yorker, Kerry O’Keefe, commentating on the ABC, said it was the ball of the series.

Given Broad couldn’t bowl in Australia’s second innings and is unlikely to bat, O’Keefe’s disclaimer was prophetic.  It was also an indictment on length and ability.  The bowling, from both sides, has mostly been short during the Ashes.

Broad, expecting another half-tracker, was startled by a full ball.  It cannoned into his right foot, in front of the stumps.  As the ball rolled off the pitch, Broad lifted his foot momentarily, ouch, as an appeal for LBW reverberated around the WACA.

It was a rare yorker and a rare LBW, just the fourth of the series, with three of those in Perth.

Johnson is probably the fastest bowler in world cricket at the moment, regularly topping 145km an hour.  He is bowling accurately, where he wants the ball to go, mainly short at the body, occasionally at the stumps.  He has taken plenty of wickets with short balls.

Johnson should bowl more yorkers, because there is no better way to clean up a batsman and make them look ridiculous.

Where for art thou, the yorker???

And it is an art form, but the current crop of bowlers either aren’t good enough or interested enough to bowl the yorker.  That’s no criticism of Australia’s assault on England, but the yorker seems a lost art.

Thirty years ago, Joel Garner took dozens of wickets with the yorker.  Without doubt he remains the best exponent of yorkers in the history of Test cricket.  His excellence with the delivery has never been rivalled.

Garner was 203 centimetres tall, massive not just for a fast bowler, but for a man.  He wasn’t slim but didn’t carry any weight.  Hunched down low during the run up, he straightened and leapt, letting the ball go from an elevation of three and a half metres.

He could get steep bounce from a good length.  Former Test batsmen describe Garner as the most difficult bowler they faced.  Geoff Boycott said no one hit Garner, he was too good.

On the 1984 tour of the West Indies, Allan Border said Garner was faster and better than Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding.

Garner took 259 wickets from 58 Tests, at an average of 20.98.  His record is exceptional, yet he seems the most unheralded of West Indian fast bowlers.

He didn’t mess around with the tail by slamming the ball in short.  He used swinging yorkers to deadly effect, hitting middle or leg stump.

On January 2, 1982, during the third Test in Adelaide, Garner hit Kim Hughes on the left foot with an in-swinging yorker.  Hughes, lucky not to be given out LBW, was immediately hobbled.  Play stopped while he removed his shoe off and inspected the damage.

To combat a swelling foot, the shoe was cut open to ease the pressure.  Unable to run, in pain at the crease, Hughes batted on, hitting 84 torturous runs from 177 balls, a tough, gritty innings.

It was no surprise Garner eventually got Hughes out.

Three weeks later, during a one-day final at the MCG, Hughes was out LBW to the first ball he faced, another yorker from Garner.  It hit Hughes in the same place, this time causing a fracture.

Hughes was a talented batsman, but Garner’s yorkers got through him.  It wasn’t just tailenders Garner embarrassed.

A good yorker elicits a different reaction to the short ball.  Where most cricket fans cringe when a batsmen is assaulted by a short ball, the yorker creates a giggle.

It was impossible not to laugh last year when Jacques Kallis yorked Ricky Ponting.  The ball, gentle by comparison to Johnson and Garner, left Ponting on his hands and knees.

It was impossible not to smirk as Broad was taken to hospital.

The yorker is the most unplayable of deliveries, the most beautiful to watch, particularly when it gets a wicket.  It must be the hardest to master, otherwise more bowlers would use it.

Toes and bones in the foot are easier to break than ribs or arms.  Batsmen can bat with broken fingers but they can’t run with busted toes.  Fast bowlers could do a lot worse than talk to Garner about yorkers.

While Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram and Brett Lee routinely bowled batsmen with a swinging yorker, Garner was the master.

Injury aside, Johnson’s yorker to Broad is compelling vision.  As O’Keefe said, it was the ball of the series.  It was so remarkable that it must’ve been a fluke, otherwise there would have been more.

Perhaps Johnson was aiming for Broad’s throat and the ball slipped…

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Great article , Mike and spot on big bird was the total master of the yorker as a south aussie we were lucky enough to see , Garner get wickets with the yorker regularly .
    Thommo bowling , Tony Greig off his shoe in , 74 75 is a favourite ashes memory
    I agree it is surprising with the influx of , 20 20 cricket with the yorker being the hardest ball to keep out let alone score off that it is such a rarity you would think that it would be able to be bowled regularly, and with accuracy
    Thanks Mike

  2. Mickey Randall says

    Wonderful homage to the yorker and Joel Garner. A lovely trip to the past. Is the yorker an under-utilised weapon in modern cricket? If so, why? Excellent story!

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