NEW DELHI – Fast bowlers usually play second fiddle to their slow-bowling counterparts on the final day of tests on the sub-continent but Mohammed Shami’s performance in India’s test win over South Africa in Visakhapatnam on Sunday told a different story.
It has been almost a tradition for quicks to begin proceedings before retreating into the background to watch the spinners wreak havoc on fifth day dustbowls in the region.
The lack of carry on such tracks limits a quick’s scope for success, which often comes either by reverse swing or through a brain-fade moment by the batsmen.
On Sunday, Shami demonstrated how a quick can succeed on such tracks, combining his reverse-swinging ability with a relentless attack on the stumps.
The bustling right-arm quick has already emerged as a second innings specialist and he burnished that reputation with figures of 5-35 against Faf du Plessis’s side.
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“Shami has been a strike bowler for us in the second innings consistently now,” India captain Virat Kohli told broadcaster STAR Sports after they went 1-0 up in the three-test series.
“If you see all his four-five-wicket hauls, they come in the second innings invariably when the team needs it. The ball is reversing a bit, that’s his strength.”
Shami now has three five-wicket hauls in the second innings since 2018, most by any bowler, and four of his five South African victims were dismissed bowled.
One of them was du Plessis, who shoulder-armed to a delivery and watched in horror as his off-stump went cartwheeling.
India opener Rohit Sharma said it was just reward for the quick, who offered no respite to the batsmen.
“He makes the batsman play all the balls, which is slightly tough on that kind of pitch,” said Rohit, whose twin centuries in his first match as a test opener earned him man-of-the-match award.
“When you know you have to play all six balls, and the pitch at times, as we have seen, is doing something from the crack, or staying low at times…the batsman doesn’t really know what’s coming next, because he (Shami) can swing it both ways.”
Shami said it took more than just his ability to reverse-swing the ball.
“It’s not easy to bowl when you know reverse-swing is happening,” said the 29-year-old.
“You need to pitch it in the right area, you need to make sure that the ball is just around off stump, so that it comes and hits the middle stump. Otherwise sometimes you can drag (the ball onto pads) and leak a lot of runs.”