Ryan Burl, who once had to tweet asking for decent shoes to play in international cricket, stuns Australia with a five-for in a historic victory

David Warner and Glenn Maxwell were threatening to pull Australia from the depths of 72 for 5, counter attacking their way out of trouble, when Zimbabwe brought on their part-time legspinner Ryan Burl.

Until now, for most Indian fans, Burl might be a name associated with a viral tweet. We shall come to that later, but first a recap of the knock-out punch he delivered.

Australia had recovered to 129 when Burl struck in his first over. For a part-timer, it was a gorgeous leg break, loopy, dipping, and all the jazz. Maxwell was dragged out by his aggression but at one point, must have known he was had. Done in. Sold. Stranded. And he was. He attempted to swing his bat through the line but the ball not only dipped but spun, taking the leading edge for Burl to settle under it.

Next man Ashton Agar was surprised by a full toss from Burl that he tamely tapped to short midwicket for a duck.

Warner was still at it, swinging away, when Burl removed him. Much of the focus might be on the catch – it was a rebound catch that had threatened to spill out Brad Evans’ hands running in from deep midwicket but it was a pretty fine delivery.

It started from outside leg, outside Warner’ front leg, well clear of it actually, and drifted right across him to land outside off, and skid away. Warner had understandably chosen the slog sweep, looking at where the ball had started but was done in by the drift and the away skid, and couldn’t connect well.

When Mitch Starc tried a feeble attempt at a heave-ho, Burl’s really full delivery had landed almost near the base of stumps. And Josh Hazlewood was done in by the drifter that took the edge to the ‘keeper.

Ryan Burl’s figures read a mind-boggling 5 for 10 from 3 overs.

The Shoe Viral moment

In May 2021, Burl had had enough tinkering with his shoe. The soles had come off again. He put out a tweet, with a pic of his shoe, tagging a sports manufacturer and asked a question: ‘“Any chance we can get a sponsor so we don’t have to glue our shoes back after every series?”

31.7k Likes, 1007 Quote Tweets, 5408 Retweets followed.

The tagged sports manufacturer didn’t respond but sportswear giant Puma did.

“Time to put the glue away, I got you covered,” Puma replied to the tweet. Soon, Burl was tweeting happily that he was happy to be sponsored by Puma.

Fish Allergy hospitalisation

In 2017, Burl, who was in Sri Lanka for a series, was hospitalised due to an allergic reaction to fish. Zimbabwe cricket put up a picture, with tubes sprawling all over Burl from the hospital. Later, Burl also shared a picture of the hospital staff with him on his Twitter account, thanking them for helping him recover. He also said that it was a ‘terribly frightening experience’. “Thank you very much to the doctors and staff at Hambantota hospital for helping me recover! A terribly frightening experience,” he wrote.

Country over county

Burl was studying in England, and was probably about to plunge into a life of cricket in county circuit but he was in double minds. When a call came from his home country to play first-class cricket, he jumped at it.

“I was really young. I was studying at a university in Southampton at that time (in 2013-14). I wasn’t totally sure where my career or my life was going. You are quite naive when you are 19 or 20. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to play for my country. That pride and passion to play for my country obviously led to my decision,” Burl told Hindustan Times. “ I moved back to Zimbabwe. I stopped university, stopped any pursuit of county cricket and just wanted to give Zimbabwe Cricket my everything,”

The Ban

But there were to be more setbacks. The ICC banned Zimbabwe for government interference in administration and financial instability, and though they would revoke the suspension, it effectively ruled them out of the 2019 T20 world qualifiers held in India. They also didn’t make it for the 2019 ODI world cup in England.

“It’s kind of hard to explain those emotions,” Burl said then. “At that time, there was so much uncertainty. You don’t know what was going on and then obviously, after that there came Covid… There was a feeling, am I ever gonna play? In the 2019 ODI World Cup, we missed out (qualification) by a couple of runs. We were not eligible to take part in the T20 World Cup. It was very difficult. I was honestly unsure and uncertain (about the future). We shed a lot of tears and kind of somehow wanted to get past that period.”

Luckily, for Burl and Zimbabwe, things have begun to progress well this year. Under the coach Dave Houghton, former Zimbabwean captain, they have beaten Bangladesh and now won their first ODI in Australia.

For a teenager who chose country over county, cried when they were banned, pleaded for a decent shoe, Ryan Burl’s greatest moment under the sun Down Under would be his five-for: the day he got David Warner and Glenn Maxwell and shook Australia.

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