Chris Gayle hit 424 runs off 316 balls in England’s one-day international series in the Caribbean. As the sign beloved by fans in the crowd proclaimed, ‘When Gayle bats, spectators become fielders and fielders become spectators’.
Yet there was one exception: when England bowled yorkers to Gayle. England delivered 19 to him over the series, which yielded only 14 runs, and claimed one wicket. The pattern continued in the first Twenty20 international. Gayle scored a single off the first yorker he faced; the second, a wide yorker from Chris Jordan, dismissed him. All of this has invited a very obvious question: why aren’t more yorkers bowled?
As England’s success against West Indies attests, no delivery is more effective when it goes right. The problem is, the margins between a pinpoint yorker and either a full toss or half-volley – both of which modern batsmen can reliably thump out the ground – are infinitesimal. Across T20 cricket, CricViz finds yorker-length deliveries concern only 6.53 runs an over. The snag is that both full tosses – slightly overpitched yorkers – and half-volleys – attempted yorkers that aren’t quite full enough – go for nigh-on 10 runs an over, which is 20 per cent higher than the overall average. For fast bowlers in limited-overs cricket, the yorker is a death-or-glory ball.
“The margins are obviously so small, you miss it by a foot and it’s the difference between getting a wicket and a six,” said Tom Curran, who took 4-36 in the first T20.
Curran is one of the most accomplished yorker bowlers in the world, a point he reaffirmed by performing brilliantly in this season’s Big Bash. He practises meticulously, and can often be seen aiming the ball at batsmen’s feet.