Indian pacers revert to Australia plan of targeting the stumps and taking on-side out of play
English summer and swing bowling are synonymous. The ability to get the ball to cut through the air and take it past the eye line of the batsman is perceived to be the more easily accessible weapon in cloudy English conditions.
The New Zealand bowlers kept the Indian batsmen guessing through the first innings of the World Test Championship final with prodigious swing. It appeared to be the obvious template.
On Tuesday, however, the Indian pacers were out to prove that you don’t necessarily have to rely on movement in the air to be successful in English conditions.
For the first 50 overs of the New Zealand innings on Sunday, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah tried to move the ball in the air. Their lines, in general, was wider of the off-stump looking for movement. The heavy overhead conditions did ensure there was some movement but it was nothing compared to what the New Zealand attack had derived in similar conditions. It was a grind to get two wickets in 50 overs.
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Young Shubman Gill, asked to face the media on Sunday, could only say that the three pacers were unlucky.
Ishant, Shami and Bumrah have all tasted success out of their ability to get the ball to seam off the pitch. They are more seam bowlers than swing bowlers.
It was time to go back to their strengths. Before play got underway, India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, while talking to official broadcasters before play on Tuesday, couldn’t stress enough on this point.
“Our bowlers are very good seam bowlers. They may not have got as much swing but that doesn’t matter. Someone like Shami can seam it off the pitch from a fuller length and target the stumps. He can bring LBW and bowled into play,” Rahane stated.
The plan was clear. Target the stumps more than obsessing about getting the outside edge. When Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor came out to bat on Tuesday, they took stance with a shot mid-wicket, a square-leg and a leg-gully in place.
The Indian attack had gone back to its plan of taking the leg-side out of play and cutting down on the scoring shots. A plan that has been revered after the success in Australia.
Shami ripped through the defence of BJ Watling and Colin de Grandhomme to get them bowled and LBW respectively. The plan was working again, and India were staging a comeback in the Test in Southampton. None of Shami’s four wickets came in the slip cordon. Yet, he looked every bit menacing. One may recall Shami was referred to as the unlucky bowler when India last toured and England and kept going past the outside the edge. This time he has got a tad closer and the results are there to see.
Interestingly, Jamieson, after completing his five-wicket haul on Sunday, had stressed on the need to moving off the surface.
“At times, there was too much swing. We were looking to wobble the ball more than swing it. The seam on the Dukes ball stays pretty good even when it gets old. It was more about how much and when you want to swing it,” Jamieson had said.
Ishant, India’s leader of the attack, attributes the turnaround in his career to the time he spent with Jason Gillespie at Sussex in 2018. The key takeaway according to him was to not just look to swing the ball in England. “Gillespie told me that in order to increase pace of my fuller deliveries, you don’t just release it but hit the deck so that it should hits the knee roll,” Ishant had said.
Ishant got his three wickets with ball kicking from a good length. There’s experience talking for India.