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Saturday, January 16, 2021

How Steve Smith foiled Mohammed Siraj’s plans

Smith would just keep leaving, as Siraj kept getting his line closer to the stumps. Smith, the master batsman that he is, read the trap perfectly.

Written by Sandip G | Updated: January 9, 2021 7:55:43 am
Australia's Steve Smith hits the ball past India's Rishabh Pant during play on day two of the third cricket test between India and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground (Source: AP)

In 136 innings, only 20 times has Steve Smith been trapped leg before wicket, though his early shuffle conveys an impression that he is a sure-shot LBW candidate to balls bending back into his pads. But that didn’t stop Mohammed Siraj from laying and persisting with an LBW trap with the second new ball. He was almost rewarded.

So far in the series, Indian bowlers have looked to bowl at Smith’s body, the outside-the-off-stump trajectory was often a plan to quieten him. But as soon as the second new ball was taken, Siraj began to operate in the fifth-stump channel at good length. The ball would move away or hold its line after pitching. Smith would just keep leaving, as Siraj kept getting his line closer to the stumps. Smith, the master batsman that he is, read the trap perfectly. The moment Siraj changed his line to the stumps, he would work the ball away to the legside, the wrists whirring away. Smith is not someone who falls over when playing on the legside though his movements concede such an impression. A false impression rather.

But Siraj was undeterred. After the lunch break, he resumed his plan but with minor tweaks. He bowled closer to the off-stump and slightly fuller, inviting Smith to push or drive. He made one swing back into the batsman, but the Australian managed an inside edge onto his pads. Two overs thus rolled by, Siraj laying an elaborate trap and Smith foiling it without much fuss. So far, there had been no signs of exaggerated inward movement, or even late movement. One ball crept along the carpet, but that landed on a spot in the fifth-stump line.

There were no undue worries. But that didn’t dissuade Siraj. He was almost taken out of the attack, before he pleaded with his captain for one more over. Ajinkya Rahane obliged, and with the first ball of his fresh over, Siraj almost nailed Smith. This one was faster, fuller and swung belatedly to hit his back thigh. Siraj immediately appealed, but the umpire remained disinterested. He implored Rahane to review, but the latter wisely turned him down. Later, the replay showed the ball would have flown comfortably over the stumps, besides hitting the batsman just outside the line of the off-stump.

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