November 1, 2014 1:24:53 am
Having endured a tough time on the field on the second day of the Duleep Trophy final, Central Zone were hoping for a burst from their pacers early in the third morning. With KL Rahul and G Hanuma Vihari denying them again during the first hour, skipper Piyush Chawla had no option but to introduce spinners. Thanks to some tight bowling from Ali Murtaza, South Zone’s innings folded 62 minutes before lunch. The left-arm spinner took four wickets to restrict South’s lead to 103 runs.
As long as Rahul was in the crease, Murtaza decided to bide his time. The Karnataka opener was giving him a tough time, not allowing him to settle down. His departure, failing to read a sharp googly from Chawla, who despite the breakthrough was quite expensive, gave Murtaza the opportunity he was waiting for.
Enter Vinay Kumar. Murtaza went wide off the crease, trying to vary his pace, with the pitch offering very little turn. His idea was to restrict the run-flow. While he managed to keep the Karnataka pacer quiet, Vihari was going after him at the other end, scoring briskly. On the second ball of the 82nd over, Vihari executed a beautiful on-drive off Murtaza to move to 75. But something went wrong with Vihari that same over. On the penultimate ball he jumped out, his head facing the sky and the bat trying to face the midwicket region only to find his timber shattered.
With tailenders on strike, Murtaza began to work on them. His plan was simple. He set up his victims with a couple of tossed up deliveries. Then moving slightly wide, he aimed at the pads of Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun, catching both of them plumb in front. Suddenly Murtaza was richer by three wickets. His last was the wicket of Pragyan Ojha, who gave up surviving the odd deliveries and scooped a simple catch to mid-off.
Murtaza’s is a classic case of new generation of left-arm spinners, who do not quite possess the perfect flight or deceive the batsman going forward, but are value for money when it comes to restricting runs and bowling flatter.
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India’s recent crop of left-armers — Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Murtaza — are similar when it comes to their bowling style. They all have high-arm actions but the release is flat. The ball almost lands on the sides rather than a tilted seam. Technically, their normal deliveries are no less than an armer. The only difference lying in the pace.
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