The Phantom has made an unexpected appearance in the Big Bash League, Australia's domestic Twenty20 cricket competition.
During the second innings of Monday night's match between the Perth Scorchers and the Sydney Thunder, talk in the commentary box turned to a rumoured "mystery ball" that Scorchers strike bowler Andrew Tye has been developing. The story was that Tye has been working on a new delivery that he's nicknamed "The Phantom". Tye is a cagey bowler in the shortest version of the game, and is known for experimenting with different ball grips and arm speeds to keep the batters guessing.
The Channel 10 BBL commentary team, comprising Mark Howard, Adam Gilchrist and Mark Waugh, were highly entertained by the prospect of a new delivery. They immediately fell to speculating about the delivery and the origin of the name.
It seems the commentators need to brush up on their pop culture references!
Renowned punter Waugh immediately recalled the New Zealand thoroughbred racehorse The Phantom, who finished second in the 1990 Melbourne Cup and in 1994 was named New Zealand Horse of the Year. Howard was probably closest to the mark when he asked "The Phantom... wasn't that a cartoon?", while Gilchrist remembered that former Australian captain and iconic Nine Network commentator Bill Lawry was nicknamed "The Phantom" during his playing days.
After the following advertising break, Howard announced that a viewer had texted through to remind the team that Lawry's nickname was derived from his love of The Phantom comic book and finally the penny dropped. However while they were able to dredge up the Ghost Who Walks moniker, neither Waugh or Gilchrist could respond when Howard asked "What was the name of his dog?" (sigh).
During the 14th over, bowled by Tye, the commentary team were able to have an on-field conversation with Michael Klinger, stand-in captain of the Scorchers, who was wearing a Channel 10 microphone. They asked about Tye's new "Phantom" ball. Klinger claimed he had never heard of it, and laughed when Waugh asked him to instruct Tye to bowl it during the over.
Within minutes Klinger approached Tye and told him, "You're on mike. They want to see this Phantom ball you've been working on." Tye laughed, went to the top of his mark and delivered what appeared to be a variation of his famous knuckle ball. Unfortunately, the ball floated slowly down the pitch and was immediately deposited into the twelth row of the grandstand by Thunder debutant Jay Lenton for an enormous 6.
The commentary team immediately joked that the "Phantom" ball would never be seen again, and that Tye would bury the delivery.
But as reported on the BBLs official website, Tye says the Phantom never actually made an appearance. "I can't give too much away," Tye told cricket.com.au. "It's a work in progress and the moment and, as the name suggests, the Phantom – it might not even be true."
Does it exist or not? That is indeed the essence of The Phantom. Perhaps Andrew Tye's mystery ball "The Phantom" will truly be the 'Ball That Cannot Die'.