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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

People’s Choice Award to Mohammad Shami for conceding 1 run in last 4 balls

Rohit Sharma would say that Shami’s over was the most influential contribution to India’s win. And the pacer, along with Ravindra Jadeja, was considered to bowl the Super Over before the team went with Bumrah.

Written by Sriram Veera | New Delhi |
Updated: January 30, 2020 9:34:13 am
India vs New Zealand, India vs New Zealand 3rd t20i, India vs New Zealand super over, Mohammad Shami, India vs New Zealand super over video, Ind vs NZ super over highlights, new zealand vs india 3rd t20i, cricket news After getting hit for a six in the first ball of the final over, Shami picked up the wickets of Williamson and Taylor to end the match in a tie. (PTI)

Why didn’t Virat Kohli use Mohammad Shami to bowl the Super Over? He was that good in the final over, the 20th, of the chase where his temperament, the remarkable ‘heavy ball’ which allowed him to hit the back of length, the smarts, and the nerveless execution of his choice lit up the game, shoving it to the Super Over. Not just in that last over, but his other three overs – two with the new ball and the 14th – were convincing empirical evidence.

Rohit Sharma would say that Shami’s over was the most influential contribution to India’s win. And the pacer, along with Ravindra Jadeja, was considered to bowl the Super Over before the team went with Bumrah. “His over actually got us the victory, not my two sixes,” he said.

Considering this is the World Cup year, it isn’t bad that Bumrah gets more opportunities (especially considering that he is coming off a back injury) with the job he would possibly be entrusted. The good thing is that Shami is pushing hard as an alternate option – and a few such last-over trials (Super Over would still be a rare occurrence, surely) to him would also help the team in the long run.

Jadeja had given just 10 runs for a wicket in three overs, but perhaps the fact that Williamson hit two sixes – one flew over long-off and the next was pulled over midwicket – in his final over, the 15th of the innings, played a part in the eventual decision. Especially as Williamson batted in the Super Over. It did bring up an interesting observation – and a lovely little moment – between Anil Kumble and Dean Jones. In their pre-over ruminations on air, both picked Jadeja as their bowler. When Bumrah marked his run-up, Jones asked Kumble, “Why aren’t spinners generally not considered for Super Over’ or words to that effect. Kumble came up with a droll response: “I have no idea!” A match-winning bowler who would often bowl the final over in his IPL years and an 80’s batsman who has respect for spinners – and two coaches at that – were puzzled at the lack of trust on the spinners to carry out the heist.

It’s more difficult to guess about Shami’s exclusion. Perhaps, it seemed safe to go with Bumrah, the usual suspect, the man who has been there and done that. It’s his 9th match – ‘first’ game was washed out due to rain – after he came back from a four-month layoff due to a back surgery. And barring a game against Australia where all Indian bowlers were profligate, he has been on the money. Just that, in this game, he was off-key – his mix of slower ones and yorkers hadn’t come out well and also, both were perhaps not the ideal choice on this pitch that had some bounce.

“There was something in it (pitch) for the bowlers,” Kane Williamson would say at the end.

Shami had used back-length screamers to great effect in the 50-over World Cup in England last year as well, taking out the likes of Chris Gayle.

Shami knew it of course, and chose the right ball-option in that final over. A course-correction was needed after the first ball; an attempted yorker had floated as a full toss and was smoked for a six by Taylor.

Just three runs, then from five balls and Kohli and Sharma would admit later that they felt that New Zealand had the game in the bag.

But here came the course-correction. Shami switched to back-length screamers. That awesome heavy ball. He had used it to great effect in the 50-over World Cup in England last year as well, taking out the likes of Chris Gayle.

Rohit framed the context well when he said, “He defended 9 runs with dew, pitch had settled in nicely… we never thought it will go to Super Over”.

3 runs from 5 balls came down to 2 from 4 after Taylor punched one to long-on. Shami changed tack. He decided to trust his ability and the pitch and pulled out his party trick – fiery crackers from short of length.

It rushed at Williamson, who tried to adjust with an upper-cut but would be thwarted by the beast of a ball. It took the edge enroute to the alert KL Rahul, who had already done a stumping off Ravindra Jadeja and celebrated it with a fist-pump.

Seifert, who had managed just a run from three Shami deliveries in the last game in one of the end overs, was also stunned and late with his reaction to the fiery poppers from back of a length. The ball kicked past an attempted cut. Still, just two from two. But Shami had a plan and was cranking it up. Kohli and Sharma must have felt game on at this point.

The vindication for Shami’s decision to hurl the short of length balls came in the two Super Overs bowled by Bumrah and Tim Southee; their yorkers didn’t land where they wanted it to.

Another jaw-dropping kicker from short of length had Seifert all at sea but Taylor rushed across. Rahul had collected it but he under armed with his gloves and didn’t have the pace and accuracy to leave Taylor stranded. Next time, would Rahul whip off the gloves quickly or even consider keeping without one would make for an interesting thing to look out for.

Back live. Taylor vs Shami. One run, needed. What now? That heavy ball or slower one or yorker or really full outside off? One thing was clear that it won’t be a length ball. The field came in, the team converged and Kohli would later say that it was decided that Shami would go full and try hitting the stumps. “We came to a conclusion that we had to hit the stumps because otherwise there is a single anyway and we are going to lose the game. Shami went for it,” Kohli said.

He certainly did. It wasn’t a yorker but the best thing was it wasn’t a yorker-gone-wrong either. Really full, not overpitched, and with the field in, Taylor felt he had to try power it through the men. But he got a fatal inside-edge on to his stumps.

The vindication for Shami’s decision to hurl the short of length balls came in the two Super Overs bowled by Bumrah and Tim Southee; their yorkers didn’t land where they wanted it to.

The Shami story gets more interesting when his last few performances in the end overs are factored in. In particular, his choices of deliveries depending on the conditions and the batsmen and his temperament. Also, because he ran into Ross Taylor in the end overs in both the first two T20s.

Perhaps, it’s best to first cue up the three-ODI series at home against Australia. Yorkers were his go-to ball in the end overs then. He didn’t get any end overs in the first game as it got done in 37 overs as Australians bossed around. In the second, when Australia needed 56 from two overs, he leaked 19 runs – 18 to Kane Richardson – in the 49th as he chose to bowl length deliveries. But in the previous two yorker-peppered overs – 44th and 46th – he had taken two wickets for just seven runs. In the third game, when Australia batted first, he bowled the 48th and the 50th and snipped out the length deliveries, using yorkers as the go-to ball, to take three wickets for just 7 runs.

Rohit Sharma super over, Mohammed Shami super over, India vs New Zealand super over, IND vs NZ 3rd T20I, Rohit Sharma press conference Mohammed Shami took two wickets in the final over of New Zealand’s run chase (Source: AP/PTI file)

Things heated up in New Zealand few days back. He ran into Ross Taylor in the end overs of the first two games. In the first T20, when New Zealand batted first, off the 16th over, Taylor smashed two sixes and a four as he took 16 of the 22 runs. Shami had largely chosen to go with length deliveries then. He corrected the mistake in his next over, the 19th when Taylor faced five balls. Shami came up with a different ball, each delivery. A yorker, a slower one, a bouncer that surprised Taylor who couldn’t get bat to ball, a full ball outside off stump, and as Taylor walked down the track for the last delivery, Shami yanked it wider and fuller outside off.

The decision must have been made then: no length to Taylor at any rate. Would he choose to vary every ball again in the next games?

It was Shami vs Taylor again in the second T20. It has to be kept in the mind it was a sluggish used pitch. They first crossed paths in the 12th over for just one delivery (in little over a decade, T20 has squeezed the game, each ball is an event), and Shami had Taylor mistiming with a slower one. It’s also worth noting that in the same over – his third – he had pinged Kane Williamson’s helmet with a sharp bouncer that needed the physio out there. The Shami-Taylor battle resumed in Shami’s next over, the 19th of the innings. Three balls only but it’s a lot in the T20 world.

He would have seen Bumrah beat Taylor with three successive slower ones in the previous over – Taylor couldn’t connect the first two, and skied the third but Virat Kohli, who takes some real good ones but also drops some easier ones, clanged it. Would Shami now try the same – he had, after all, bowled the slower one first up to Taylor a few overs earlier – or would he reckon Taylor has seen too many slower ones by now?

He went for his trick from the first game – three different deliveries. A length ball, then full outside off, and a yorker outside off. Incidentally, the other three balls were at Seiffert who just got a run and who would also feature – and be stunned again – in the last-over Shami thriller. Not just Seiffert but Williamson and Taylor too – good enough evidence, not that it was needed, that in the last year or so, Shami has ratcheted up his art.

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