On the back of a remarkable T20 Vitality Blast campaign with Hampshire, Nathan Ellis has arguably established himself as the world’s finest exponent of at-the-death bowling. Ellis’ breath-taking last over of the final – against Lancashire at Edgbaston last week – was a perfect example of his immense skill and composure in a high pressured situation.
“Who’s bowling?” This is something that you are very unlikely to hear when Hampshire’s overseas bowler Nathan Ellis starts his run up at the Ageas Bowl. His first two steps resemble a prancing gazelle before he transfigures into a rutting bull. With his head down he rages in, charging with wounding intent. At the batter’s end the wary matador grips a heavy willow bat; it may just as well be a red velvet cape.
Once he is at the crease to deliver, his action is quick and skiddy: a bit Darren Gough-like, if I was forced to make a comparison.
Ellis’ stock ball is invariably targeted at the right-handed batter’s ankles, with middle and leg stump being the line. His slower ball is so deceptive that it has batters swinging at thin air when he chooses to use it – and he uses it often.
The T20 Vitality Blast consents to squads of thirteen. Two of these can be overseas players signed just to play in the tournament. Hampshire elected to sign Nathan Ellis and Ben McDermott in February 2022, both Australians who represent Hobart Hurricanes in The Big Bash. Whilst McDermott is a top order batter who also keeps wicket, Ellis is a 27 year-old right arm fast bowler and lower order batter.
Of the two, only Ellis has played in the IPL. McDermott went unsold when he looked destined to be snapped up, while Ells headed to the Punjab Kings where he made just three appearances. And, based on his form for Hampshire this season, the Kings must be kicking themselves for not retaining the likeable Australian for 2023.
The final over that Ellis bowled at Edgbaston, in the final of the Vitality Blast at Edgbaston was no freak. At Taunton, he bowled two of the last five overs, taking three wickets and conceding just six runs in the process. At the Ageas Bowl, in a vital match against Gloucestershire a week later, Ellis took two wickets and conceded just a leg bye in the final over. That evening he finished with figures of two for fourteen as Hampshire defended a below par total of 140/7.
After the match against Gloucestershire, I caught up with the Aussie who told me that he loves bowling at the death. “It’s black and white,” he said with a disarming smile. “It’s one against one. It’s simple.”
Winning the Vitality Blast with Hampshire may have raised some eyebrows among the hierarchy at Punjab Kings who, despite retaining Liam Livingstone have released Ellis. One imagines, if they want him back on their books next season, they may have to outbid a number of IPL teams. Ellis is a genuine artist in the final overs. What price that, in the IPL?