Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal’s delivery that flummoxed Rassie van der Dussen in India’s win over South Africa at Trent Bridge was straight out of Shane Warne’s manual of deception. The trickery began with his run-up. Generally, spinners go wider from the crease against right-handed batsmen to procure exaggerated drift.
But Chahal bowled from closer to the stumps, giving the impression that he was planning a googly or slider. The batsman, van der Dussen, was struggling to read him from his hand. So he decided to employ the reverse sweep. The initial trajectory of the ball suggested that it might drop in front of his heels than on the off-middle line. Then he froze. The ball kept tailing into him like a wicked reverse-swinging Waqar Younis toe-crusher in slow motion. Van der Dussen’s bemused eyes could only follow the trail as it plunged a couple of centimetres away from where he was anticipating it. There was no wriggle room, as he was already committed to the shot.
The ball that seemed to be homing in on the off, had drifted to the leg-stump and then spun back to hit the middle-stump. It was the extra revs he imparted, the extra tweak and push that made the ball drift so dramatically.
Interestingly, Chahal’s dismissal of South African skipper Faf du Plessis was because of the lack of drift. An over before he got out, du Plessis had swept chinaman Kuldeep Yadav. But he wasn’t taking any chances against the leggie who had fooled his team mate by a piece of sublime deceit. He seemed to have decided to see Chahal off. Maybe, he was thinking too much of Chahal’s drift. From the uncertain mind emerged an uncertain stroke, a half defensive-prod, his feet crease-tied. He was waiting for slow-drifting curler, only that Chahal was second-guessing him and slipped in the faster (by three kmh), straighter slider, which du Plessis was too late to read. And the ball snuck through the gap between his bat and pad. And unlike the regular sliders, he can at times purchase some inward turn, which can confuse the batsman, as the sliders generally tend to shoot in with the angle.
Not just the speed, he was deceived by the abrupt drop — this time the ball hardly drifted, as he hadn’t given the ball much of a rip. Du Plessis was expecting a fuller delivery, only that it dropped a couple of yards in front of him. The twin strikes in the 20th over stalled South Africa’s consolidation bid.
David Miller seemed to have learnt from the mistakes of his team mates. He was neither preempting nor trying anything fancy. A tap here, a nurdle there, he was looking to smother the spin, besides reading his variations, especially the googly. But this one time he couldn’t gauge both the drift and dip. He thought it was pitching closer to his body and was much fuller. But the delivery, again hard-spun, kept veering away. Even then, he thought he had the line covered and reached to the pitch of the ball, but it dipped a couple of centimetres further away from him, bounced more than he had estimated and could only spoon the ball back to Chahal. It was the dip again that deceived Andile Phehlukwayo.
The latter had stepped out against Chahal with a fair degree of conviction, but this time the ball was slower, the slowest of all the wicket-taking deliveries. The dip he procures is often underestimated because he doesn’t toss the ball as lavishly as most leg-spinners, the ball, when viewed side-on doesn’t show a neat, swooping arc. It’s a relatively flatter in trajectory as well. Then, therein, lies Chahal’s deception.