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Monday, September 20, 2021

WTC to Test, how Indian pacers transformed

The transformation from a disjointed bunch of individuals to a callous company of sharpshooters was bewilderingly smooth.

Written by Sandip G |
Updated: August 5, 2021 7:46:06 am
India vs England Nottingham Test, India tour of England 2021, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur, England 183 all outIndia's Mohammed Shami celebrates taking the wicket of England's Dan Lawrence with teammates. (Reuters)

A month and a half after their rusty World Test Championship (WTC) finale outing, India’s seamers rediscovered their form in the first Test against England, producing a measured swing-and-seam bowling masterclass. Jasprit Bumrah, woefully off-kilter against New Zealand, regained his zip off the surface, and resembled his old self; Mohammed Shami embodied the virtues of patience in the first session and bore the fruits of his labour in the second; Mohammed Siraj did not get over-excited by the friendly conditions while Shardul Thakur justified his inclusion by taking crucial wickets. The transformation from a disjointed bunch of individuals to a callous company of sharpshooters was bewilderingly smooth. Here’s looking at the subtle alterations made by the Indian pace attack.

Bowl fuller: That’s the sagely altruism about bowling in England. Bowling fuller is not as easy as it sounds — it’s often a matter of inches. And not just bowl full, but coerce movement, either off the seam or through the air. Besides, a bowler needs to know when to bowl that full ball. With the wine-red, hand-stitched Dukes ball, Bumrah against the fidgety Rory Burns did exactly that, striking on the fifth ball of the game. Shami would repeat the same act later in the day. First he baited Jos Buttler into an expansive cover-drive. Later, he pushed the ball a yard or two further into the batsman and made the ball deviate late into the pads. Jonny Bairstow, who like Buttler, doesn’t have a pronounced forward press, played from the crease at a Shami ball that pitched between the full and good-length zones. Even the silken Joe Root, in double-hundred touch, failed to keep out one from Thakur. Four LBWs and a bowled capture the full-length ball story.

Hitting the corridor: Another fundamental in getting wickets in Tests anywhere in the world, but a difficult art to master. India’s seamers were not McGrath-Anderson like in accuracy but were substantially better than they were in the WTC final. Often in that game, in their over-keenness for the magical pitching-on-middle-and-hitting-off arc, they floundered, giving facile boundary-scoring outlets on the leg-side. When they tried to compensate, they over-reached by bowling too wide, which the Kiwi batsmen either slashed or left alone, on a surface that was apparently conducive to swing bowling. Here, they pounded the corridor more often — with the correct length — and made the English batsmen play and miss more.

Nip in to nip out: The out-swinger is always a beautiful sight but it is the late in-swinger, the one Shami has mastered, that makes batsmen feel uncomfortable. All three of his wickets were bargained with the one nipping into the right-hander. The Indian pace battery mixed it up well. Not every ball cut in, some went away, some came in with the angle, some would bounce tummy-high, some would slither and then some just moved in sharply. The England batsmen’s tendency to fall over when playing on the leg-side made them all the more susceptible to nip-backers. None of Dan Lawrence, Dom Sibley and Bairstow were remotely in control of their strokes. It seemed Shami had spent the entire three-week break studying England batsmen and their flaws.

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