By Ben Waterworth
If you were asked which bowler would take the most wickets in the KFC T20 Big Bash League, who would you have selected pre-competition?
Muttiah Muralitharan? Dirk Nannes? Brad Hogg would have received a number of mentions. James Faulkner might have been a roughy tip for some.
But few would have picked humble Hobart Hurricanes fast man Ben Laughlin.
If you did, you are a deadset cricketing genius. Or you were severely intoxicated at the time of questioning.
Nonetheless, statistics do not lie and Laughlin's 13 scalps sees him share top spot on the BBL|02 wicket ladder with Melbourne Stars paceman Lasith Malinga.
Laughlin, who only captured seven wickets from eight matches in BBL|01, has taken a huge step forward in BBL|02. So big, in fact, he has turned into the Hurricanes' biggest weapon.
The 30-year-old has been particularly influential during the backend of the regular season. He took a career-high 4-31 against the Sydney Sixers on Boxing Day then followed up with 3-19 against the Perth Scorchers on New Year's Day.
Bowlers would die for those types of figures.
But Laughlin has done more than just 'take wickets' this season.
The Tasmanian's ability to dry up runs during spells has been just as valuable, conceding an average of only 6.66 runs per over.
His economical bowling has forced frustrated batsmen to play rash or unnecessary shots. Those strokes have led to wickets, not only for him, but also for his teammates bowling at the opposite end.
Amazingly, Laughlin seems to be in his prime during the final overs of an innings.
The hardest time to bowl in a T20 is arguably during the final four overs.
Laughlin, however, makes it seem effortless.
Through his randomisation of slower balls and excellent yorkers, the paceman's death bowling is second to none. He constantly varies his pace, line and length, making it incredibly difficult for batsmen to score.
Laughlin's job, however, is far from over.
He will have to play a major role in Hobart's must-win clash against the Brisbane Heat at Blundstone Arena tonight.
If the Hurricanes win, a BIG SEMI FINAL spot is theirs. If they lose, season over.
A simple equation, yet so daunting.
But in Laughlin, the Hurricanes trust.