World Cup 2019: Decoding the ‘Shami zone’ in Birmingham
Birmingham: Legendary Wasim Akram often uses the phrase: “This guy runs in every single ball.” That’s what bowlers do right? They run in and bowl. But what’s with this “running in every single ball”?
There is a lot of difference between running into bowl and running in with purpose and bowling. Ever since his comeback into the Indian limited-overs side, Mohammed Shami has been running in with a lot of purpose and with a precise plan.
Shami warmed the bench for four games (including the rain washout against New Zealand) in the World Cup. He got his due and three matches down the line he has 13 wickets to his tally including a hat-trick and a fifer!
5/69 in 10 overs – these are Shami’s figures against England at Edgbaston, Birmingham, in a game which India lost by 31 runs. Usually, when a pacer claims a fifer in ODI cricket, he either rips through the opposition batting on a lively pitch or picks one or two wickets with the new ball and then takes a few at the slog overs when batsmen are trying to get on with the game. Rather, that’s generally the pattern.
Let’s decode the ‘Shami zone’ in Birmingham:
First spell: 4-0-22-0; Second spell: 3-1-3-2; Third spell: 3-0-44-3
It was a cold morning in Birmingham and Shami was letting the England openers know that he was the bowler with a hat-trick under his belt in the World Cup. Twice, he could well have had Jonny Bairstow bowled off the inside edge with the ball moving back sharply off the pitch but it ended up costing Shami and India eight runs.
One could feel Shami’s deliveries whizzing past the batsmen with more pace and carry than what the speed gun actually showed. The seam presentation was such that it even foxed Dhoni. On one such instance, the seam was pointing towards the first slip as it went past Jason Roy’s bat and as the ball was about to shake hands with Dhoni, it just moved towards the other side catching Dhoni on the wrong foot.
Shami was unfortunate not to pick wickets in his first spell but credit to captain Virat Kohli for using his pace bowlers brilliantly despite the onslaught carried out by Roy and Bairstow against his major strike weapons Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.
Let’s go back to the “running in” theory. After the third ball of the 34th over when Shami was running in, Sanjay Manjrekar on air, said, “He’s running in and that’s good to see”
Shami eventually ended up bowling a well-directed bouncer targetted across Eoin Morgan and induced a top-edge to deep fine-leg fielder Kedar Jadhav.
Overs 30-40 witnessed 43 runs with India taking two crucial wickets and Shami’s figures during that spell read 3-1-3-2! Shami was a different bowler the moment Shami dismissed an attacking Bairstow after frustrating him by not feeding boundary balls. There was a period where Shami had conceded just 5 runs in 25 balls and claimed three wickets.
With Kohli opting to bowl five overs of Jasprit Bumrah in the last 10 overs, England batsmen had to target Shami, who was India’s wicket-taking option at the death with batsmen preferring to see off ‘Boom Boom’ Bumrah.
Shami conceded 44 runs in his last three overs and claimed 3 wickets - a wicket in each over. Shami did employ the bouncer plan against Jos Buttler, got some stick, but eventually ended up dismissing Buttler with the same dose in the same over.
Shami dismissed Chris Woakes with another angled-bouncer targetted at the batsman but Big Ben Stokes took on the shorter boundary and spoiled Shami’s figures.
Maybe, on a lighter note, Shami shouldn’t have dismissed Joe Root, who seemed to be the most gentle of England batsmen on the pitch with the bat in hand on the day! Post Root’s dismissal, Buttler and Stokes took on Shami. Probably, the Indian pacer could have ensured he didn't feed Buttler and Stokes a few bad balls but then that's what Shami is all about, a wicket-taker when he is on song and expensive like a leg-spinner when he misses his mark.
Had it not been for Shami’s exceptional three-over spell from overs 30-40, England could well have posted a score closer to 400 or more than that. Kohli was on the ball when it came down to rotating his two frontline pacers - Shami and Bumrah - right throughout the contest. Guess, Kohli needed three frontline pacers, but that’s for another story.
On any day, one would certainly be happy with a five-for even after conceding 69 runs but more than that Shami “running in with the ball” right throughout his spell is the critical part for India going forward in the World Cup.
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