Updated: December 29, 2021 1:00:17 pm
Fast bowlers reigned across time zones in the Southern Hemisphere on Tuesday. First in Melbourne, and then in Centurion, the sound of balls crashing into stumps, thudding into pads and smocking bat-edges narrated the tale of how much leather dominated willow. As many as 24 wickets fell on the day – 18 in Centurion alone – and all of them to pace.
Boland the reaper, Starc the ripper
Just how dreamy can a dream debut get? Winning a Boxing Day Ashes Test at the MCG for Australia with unreal figures of 4-1-7-6 was 32-year old debutant seamer Scott Boland, as he blew England away for just 68. Boland opened up Jonny Bairstow with a beauty that angled in and nipped away to trap him in front. England captain Joe Root was sucked into a fatal drive with a fuller one that again nipped away, but the ball of the day came from Mitchell Starc – a 145.4kph thunderbolt that jagged in off the pitch from a length and clattered into Ben Stokes’ middle stump. Stokes was perhaps looking to play the original line when his bat came down from just outside off stump. He ended up pinned half-forward with a yawning gap between bat and pad. Accuracy and movement at that speed will make even a batsman as talented as Stokes look clueless.
The KG and Ng show
After a fruitless first day and a washout on the second, South Africa’s spearhead Kagiso Rabada set the tone for the hosts’ swift comeback early on the third morning in Centurion. He overstepped twice in his second over, banging it in short both times, suggesting he was straining extra for the bouncer. He got it on target last ball of the same over. Short, quick, angled in, ending just outside KL Rahul’s left shoulder. Hurried by the pace and lift, the centurion tried swinging it fine, only to nick it behind.
Three overs later, Lungi Ngidi took out the second overnight batsman. Ajinkya Rahane likes to cut and upper-cut, and he probably thought he had the width and the length. But Ngidi found some inswing, and also some extra life off the pitch. Rahane’s swish only found the keeper’s gloves. The rest were to crumble to this combined onslaught in under nine overs.
Shami returns the favour
The current version of Mohammed Shami in South Africa is like a faster Vernon Philander. In the channel, all day, nipping it this way or that at awkward bounce and pace, and making survival almost impossible for batsmen. The first two of his five strikes were evidence enough. Keegan Petersen felt he had the driveable length. He was right, only the ball came in after pitching and took the inside edge on to leg stump.
Aiden Markram was to suffer the other way. He shaped up to defend one angled in but this straightened past the bat and hit the top of off. It had all started when Jasprit Bumrah slanted a peach across Dean Elgar. The ball appeared to tilt in late towards the stumps, forcing an alarmed Elgar to try to defend, and then carried further across off the surface to take the edge behind. It was indeed an exhibition of fast bowling across continents.
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