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India vs South Africa | Accurate Mohammed Shami Too Hot to Handle for South Africa

But it was a pacer Mohammed Shami who was the hero of the day, showing it wasn't all about pace.

Karthik Lakshmanan |October 6, 2019, 4:28 PM IST
India vs South Africa | Accurate Mohammed Shami Too Hot to Handle for South Africa

Day 5 of Test matches in India are all about spinners. Typically, it's the spinners who use every bit of assistance from pitches, its cracks and roughs, creating hell for batsmen.

Spinners did play a part on Day 5 of the first Test between India and South Africa; R Ashwin provided the first breakthrough of the day, and Ravindra Jadeja got four wickets including three in an over. But it was a pacer Mohammed Shami who was the hero of the day, showing it wasn't all about pace.

Shami picked 5 for 35 from just 10.5 overs in the fourth innings of the game, running through the heart of South Africa's batting. Ironically, his biggest weapon was the opposite of spin - bowl straight, keep targeting the stumps relentlessly. The variable bounce of the Day 5 track did the rest, as is evident from the mode of Shami's wickets. Four of his five wickets were bowled.

The first one, in the third over of the day, set the tone. Temba Bavuma had no chance against one that nipped in a touch and kept low. Bavuma is a short man, but even he couldn't keep that away.

Then came captain Faf du Plessis, who fell for one of the best deliveries of the day. Bowling from close to the stumps, Shami pitched it on back of length outside off. Du Plessis was not too wrong in thinking the ball would go to the keeper, but instead, it deviated in sharply to hit the off stump. Du Plessis had a wry smile and stared at the pitch, but it wasn't just that. Shami's seam position was as crucial a factor in the dismissal, for when that combines with hitting those Day 5 cracks, the possibilities are endless. As Du Plessis found out.

The next to fall was first-innings centurion Quinton de Kock. Nothing fancy - just a straight ball which a new batsman missed, resulting in the stumps uprooted again. It was not as dramatic a dismissal as Bavuma or du Plessis, but it showed another facet of Shami's bowling: skid. That's what the ball does so often, gaining pace after pitching.

Once Shami was done with the main batsmen, and Jadeja got three in an over, Virat Kohli gave Shami a break. Only two wickets were left and the others were expected to get them in no time, but Senuran Muthusamy and Dane Piedt frustrated India with a 91-run stand for the ninth wicket. And then Kohli had enough, tossing the ball to Shami, who did the trick first ball.

He literally broke Piedt's stumps, getting his fourth, all via bowleds.

The performance once again showed how crucial Shami is to India's set up, especially in subcontinent Tests. When there's little assistance for pacers, Shami still manages to do the job with tremendous skills of accuracy and reverse swing. The 'bowleds' in the second innings was no one-off; out of Shami's 55 Test wickets in Asia, 32 have come via bowled or lbw. Overall too, bowled and lbw have accounted for 70 of Shami's 158 Test wickets.

Shami's accuracy, especially when pitches become lower and slower, makes him deadly in second innings. More than half of his Test wickets (80 of 158) have come in second innings, something which Kohli referred to in the post-match presentation.

Shami too elaborated on the his success in second innings, saying: "It would always be difficult to bat as the wicket was slow and low. We had the plans to attack the stumps. In the second innings, the variable bounce and reverse swing would help us. It was visible that the batsman's discomfort zone was that stump-line and you can see the result. The more we would attacked the stumps, the better it would be."

It sounds seemingly simple, but it takes tremendous skills to do that consistently like Shami. It makes India's attack even more deadly, for they're not just all about Ashwin and Jadeja at home.

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