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Cricket

Updated on: Friday, December 31, 2021, 08:10 PM IST

SA vs IND: How Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj stepped up for India in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah against South Africa in Centurion

Jasprit Bumrah was off the field for close to 50 overs in the first innings and yet South Africa folded up for 197, thanks to Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj
L-R: Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj | Photo: AFP/PTI

L-R: Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj | Photo: AFP/PTI

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December 30 is a significant day in Indian cricket.

In 2014, MS Dhoni announced shock retirement from Tests, minutes after helping India achieve a fighting draw. In 2018, India beat Australia for the first time in a Boxing Day Test. India again beat the Aussies in 2020, that sowed seeds for another series win Down Under after a forgettable day/night Test in Adelaide.

In 2021, the Virat Kohli-led team defeated South Africa in what is considered to be their fortress in Tests – the SuperSport Park in Centurion.

It was a match that saw 38 wickets being picked up by pacers before a spinner made the wickets column – Ravichandran Ashwin with the last two Protea wickets to seal the win.

Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami played starring roles with Mohammed Siraj’s burst providing the ideal backup.

Picture this.

India lose 49 for 7 on the third morning after rain washed away an entire day. South Africa captain Dean Elgar might have been one of the first wickets India would have wanted given his gritty batting abilities. Bumrah spears a full one that has Elgar edging before he could comprehend it.

And then in the second innings, on the last day, Elgar has raced to 77 after resuming at 52. South Africa add 43 in about ten overs. But Bumrah has Elgar out of position by peppering the channel outside off before angling one in line of the stumps to trap him in front.

Of course, not to mention the vicious off-cutter to Rassie van der Dussen, who shouldered arms and saw his off stump pegged back. Bumrah has shown his wares time and again, and hence he is too precious a resource for India.

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That is why, what Shami and Siraj did, when Bumrah was off the field due to injury in the first dig, was important for India, who are on a mission to win their first Test series in South Africa.

Bumrah twisted his ankle and walked off in the 11th over. He would be then eligible to bowl only in the 61st over.

Shami ran in hard and exploited whatever bit of uneven bounce there was on the Centurion wicket to, not just cause discomfort to the South African batters, but also dismiss them to pick up his sixth five-wicket haul as well as his 200th Test wicket. And when an opposition skipper appreciates a bowler’s skills, you know how big an impact he has had.

“Shami obviously posed some issues for our right-hand batters. Obviously his wickets in the first innings reflect on that,” said Elgar after the match.

“Bumrah is someone that's always running with energy, high energy, irrespective of if he's going for runs or not. So he's always going to challenge you as a batter. Siraj can also come in and can also be a bit of a handful as he was a little bit last night.

“But the senior guys in Shami and Bumrah are the two guys.”

Siraj returned three wickets in the game, each accompanied by his new-found Cristiano Ronaldo-like celebration. He set up Keegan Petersen with an indipper before getting him edged with an outswinger, showing his gifted skills as well as thinking nature. No wonder, KL Rahul prefers fielding in the slips to the quick than facing the relentless pacers even in the nets.

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“To play our bowlers in the nets is more difficult, because especially for me or for many batters, we don't enjoy that much playing in the nets and add to it, these people frighten us,” the India Test vice-captain said with a laugh.

“And they don't treat us as teammates when they see us in the nets. They are very, very competitive people. So yes, we are very lucky to have such quality in our bowling line-up.”

Only 25 percent of the wickets in the first Test were picked up by Bumrah. Shami and Siraj accounted for 55 percent. And that it was enough for India for an outright win at a venue they hadn’t won before would boost their confidence as much as it will dent South Africa’s.

“Just the way these guys bowl together, it's just a hallmark of our team getting a result from that position, not just in this game but also in the last two-three years,” Kohli said.

“(Shami) is absolutely world class talent. For me he's in the best three seamers in the world at the moment… his strong wrist, his seam position and his ability to hit a length consistently.”

As long as the pace paradise in Indian cricket is strong, the frequency of such ‘significant days’ will only rise.

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Published on: Friday, December 31, 2021, 08:10 PM IST
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