Tymal Mills: Southern Brave bowler who could step into England’s T20 World Cup squad

Venue: Kia Oval, London Date: 20 August Time: 15:00 BST (women’s), 18:30 BST (men’s)
Coverage: Women’s match live on BBC Two, BBC iPlayer and online. Radio commentary of both matches, plus live text, clips and analysis on BBC Sport website

Lord’s will be the focus for many cricket fans on Saturday for the The Hundred’s finals day but, whisper it quietly, England’s first match at the Twenty20 World Cup is just 65 days away.

Last-minute preparations are being made for the tournament in the UAE and Oman, but England’s hopes of becoming world champions in both white-ball formats took a blow the equivalent of a heavyweight’s right hook earlier this month when Jofra Archer, their superstar fast bowler, was ruled out with injury.

However, could one bowler on show in The Hundred’s finale this weekend, whose most recent T20 for England came back in 2017, be the best possible replacement?

Why Tymal Mills is the bowler England need

To put it simply, no fast bowler anywhere in the world concedes fewer runs in the crucial final stages of an innings than Tymal Mills, whose Southern Brave side play in Friday’s eliminator.

His economy rate in the ‘death overs’ is 7.47 – better than Archer, better than Australia’s Mitchell Starc and India’s Jasprit Bumrah.

Injury – Mills was diagnosed with a congenital back condition in 2015 – has largely prevented him from playing too much for England in that time but, when fit, the left-arm quick has travelled to play in T20 leagues in India, Australia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, while also impressing for Sussex and even working as a BBC radio and television pundit.

An international recall would not be out of the blue. Earlier this year, England skipper Eoin Morgan name-checked Mills as a bowler who could force their way into the reckoning with a good, and injury-free, Hundred.

Mills has done just that with the second-best death economy for a pace bowler in the group stage after Birmingham Phoenix’s New Zealander Adam Milne.

The 29-year-old has bowled a number of impressive spells, none more so than against London Spirit when he and Chris Jordan closed out a win despite the Spirit needing only 12 from the last 10 balls.

Bowler Runs per over
Tymal Mills (Eng) 7.47
Wahab Riaz (Pak) 7.67
Mustafizur Rahman (Ban) 7.84
Dale Steyn (SA) 8.04
Junaid Khan (Pak) 8.05
Lasith Malinga (SL) 8.06

How Mills stands out – Part I: Fast and slow

Mills’ biggest strengths in T20 or 100-ball cricket are his slower balls and, crucially, his speed.

Like most bowlers, Mills mixes the pace of his deliveries but he does so while being able to bowl his fastest balls in excess of 90mph – a key difference to many other bowlers.

Since CricViz’s data analysis began, Mills has the second largest difference between the average speed of his quicker balls and his slower ones.

“As soon as the batter knows you can bowl 90mph and potentially hit them or cause them unrest it does change their footwork and that is when the slower ball becomes effective,” Mills tells BBC Sport.

Tymal Mills speeds vs Welsh Fire. The chart shows the large mix in speeds of Tymal Mills' deliveries against Welsh Fire - ranging from 91mph to 67mph.
Against Welsh Fire, Mills hit a top speed of 91mph but also a lowest speed of 67mph

His back-of-the-hand slower ball – a delivery which requires the shoulder to be contorted and the ball to be released with the back of the hand facing towards the batter – is particularly deceptive.

It is bowled with the same arm speed but because of the change in release, the ball comes out much slower.

“I don’t find it difficult to bowl,” Mills says.

“I am quite lucky I have good mobility in my shoulder to get my arm around the other way and where some guys don’t have that flexibility in their shoulder.

“I am looking to get revolutions on the ball almost like a spinner so it bounces more once it pitches.”

How Mills stands out – Part II: An ‘unglamorous’ approach

The way Mills uses those raw skills is also interesting.

The yorker – the ball speared towards a batter’s toes – is regarded as the perfect delivery for the end of an innings because, when bowled well, it is difficult to hit for boundaries… but Mills does things differently.

In The Hundred, just 32% of his deliveries in the ‘death overs’ have been yorkers whereas someone like Mills’ Brave team-mate Chris Jordan, an England T20 regular, bowls that delivery 54% of the time.

Instead Mills peppers the middle of the pitch with short balls of various paces.

Tymal Mills lengths in last 12 months - 40% full, 19% good, 41% short
41% of Mills deliveries in T20 and 100-ball cricket have been short in the last 12 months, above average for fast bowlers. His percentage of short balls has previously been as high as 60%

“If a bowler bowls six balls in an over, nails two yorkers but the rest isn’t that great it is forgotten – people just remember those yorkers,” Mills says.

“I go about it trying to bowl six balls that all go for a single or maybe the odd two.

“A yorker, when you get them right they are the best ball, no doubt about that, but when you miss them they often go for four or six.

“I am definitely a defensive bowler in my make-up and mindset.”

A possible result of that “defensive” approach is shown in the fact Mills has only taken four wickets in eight Hundred games. While he has the fourth-best economy rate in the tournament he is 34th in the wicket-taking chart.

“I don’t necessarily bowl the most glamorous deliveries,” Mills says.

“I am not taking heaps of wickets but I am managing to keep the run-rate down and creating pressure for my team-mates.”

Will that be enough for England to come calling?

“I have been injured that much that I have learned not to think months ahead,” Mills says.

“I want to play for England again. We will have to see how things play out.”

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