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Friday, April 16, 2021

Siraj adds to reputation with another stellar display

Only into his fifth Test, Siraj has developed a knack of collecting prized scalps.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Ahmedabad |
Updated: March 6, 2021 8:23:15 am
India's captain Virat Kohli and Mohammed Siraj celebrate the wicket of England's Joe Root. (Source: Reuters)

Umesh Yadav for Jasprit Bumrah was the change fans had expected. But the Indian team management picked Mohammed Siraj for the fourth Test and the fast bowler vindicated his captain’s faith, putting up a fine performance (2/45) on the first day at Motera.

Only into his fifth Test, Siraj has developed a knack of collecting prized scalps. In Australia, where he took 13 wickets in three Tests, the 26-year-old dismissed David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne twice each and Steve Smith once. On Thursday, he set up Joe Root to fail. Jonny Bairstow’s wicket, too, came at an important time, when the batsman was slowly getting into the groove. But Siraj will cherish the England captain’s dismissal.

On a good pitch, Root could have been the thorn in India’s flesh. Siraj, bowling from the Reliance End, didn’t allow him to settle down. Before the first drinks break, he probed the batsman with deliveries that shaped away, followed by a bouncer that accounted for a boundary. After the break, Siraj pinned Root on the crease and trapped him leg-before with a ball that jagged back off the surface. Inswingers and in-cutters are Siraj’s stock deliveries. The previous over, however, had created doubt in Root’s mind.

“I thought it was a nice set-up. I had bowled away-going deliveries to him in my previous over. So, when I was coming for the fresh over, I decided to try an incoming ball. It came out as I planned and I was able to hit Root’s pads. It gave me a lot of joy,” Siraj said after the day’s play.

The dismissal offered a throwback to the working over of Cameron Green in Melbourne, an effort that wowed the experts in the ABC Grandstand commentary box. On Thursday, two former England fast bowlers, Darren Gough and Steve Harmison, waxed lyrical about the Indian seamer on talkSPORT radio commentary.

Indian cricketers of Siraj’s generation don’t get bogged down by reputation, which explains the bowler’s success against big names. This is one of the positives of the Indian Premier League. Siraj was called into action in the second Test in Australia after Mohammed Shami suffered a fractured forearm. He took to Test cricket like a duck to water, finishing the series as the team’s highest wicket-taker.

On the first day of the fourth Test against England, Siraj got the ball to swerve; his deliveries moved in the air and also came in sharply off the deck. Bairstow was beaten for pace. The speed-gun clocked 146.4kph. The batsman was crease-bound and had very little time to adjust.

“I had seen some of his videos and gathered that he is troubled by incoming balls. So when I got a chance to bowl to him, I decided to try that. The ball tailed in as planned and I had the wicket,” Siraj went through the dismissal.

The Hyderabad pacer reaped the rewards for his consistency.

“Virat bhai told me to bowl at one spot; that’s what my job is… Building pressure and bowling patiently at one spot. I had a chat with Ishant bhai also. He also advised me to bowl in one area and not try too many things,” Siraj said.

He showed admirable maturity. In Australia, Siraj bowled back-of-a-length. In Ahmedabad, he bowled fuller. ” (It was important to) bowl up unlike Australia where we bowl a bit peechhe (off a length).”

Siraj v Stokes

Through his in-duckers, consistency and shock bouncers, Siraj seemingly managed to ruffle Ben Stokes, who according to the bowler, resorted to “swearing”. Kohli got involved and had an animated conversation with the England allrounder. After the day’s play, however, both Siraj and Stokes played down the incident.

“I spoke to Virat bhai who handled it well. This keeps happening, not a big issue,” Siraj said. “… two-three guys who care about what they are doing, why would they not be competitive?” Stokes asked.

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