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Home or away, Mohammed Shami revels in his “second-innings Shami” Moniker

No other bowler has picked more wickets than Mohammed Shami in the fourth innings of a Test since his debut.

Mohammed Shami
Mohammed Shami. (Photo Source: Twitter)

On the first four days of the Visakhapatnam Test, fast bowlers from both sides dished out a combined 105 overs and returned with just four wickets. Hell! Who can forget Virat Kohli tossing the second new ball to Hanuma Vihari ahead of Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami during South Africa’s first innings? And, I must confess that I had never thought the South Africans- Yep! The land of Pollock, Donald, Klusener, Ntini, Steyn, Morkel, Rabada- will field three spinners in a Test match. 

On Sunday, in 10.5 overs Mohammed Shami took more wickets [5] than all the fast bowlers combined have managed throughout the Test. This was Shami’s fourth 5-wicket haul in the 2nd innings of a Test match. Since Shami’s debut in November 2013, no bowler has taken more wickets than the skiddy right-hander and only Shanon Gabriel has more bowled dismissals.

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The three bowled dismissals of Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis, in particular, can serve as a case study to explain the brilliance of Shami. While in the past, he may have been guilty of straying onto middle-stump, Shami now targets an area just six inches outside the off-stump. If it reverses it’ll hit the middle. 

Most wickets by pacers in fourth innings of a Test since Shami’s debut:

Most-wickets-by-pacers-in-the-4th-innings-of-a-Test-since-Mohammad-Shamis-debut_1

Let’s take the example of the South African skipper Faf du Plessis’ dismissal. Shami’s bowls at slightly back of a length which the likes of Faf du Plessis or any other foreign batsman is perennially conditioned to hang back on the backfoot or leave the ball on length. But by the time the fifth day rolls around, that length on Indian tracks combined with the natural skidiness and Shami’s off-side line cramps the batsman on the backfoot, making him a candidate for a leg-before wicket.

“He knows how to bowl on such pitches, gets reverse swing straight into play once he knows there is some help on offer,” Rohit Sharma said offering a batsman’s perspective. “He has mastered that art now, bowling with the old ball and getting it to reverse. These types of conditions are pretty ideal for him. He makes them play all the balls and it is tough for the batsmen where the ball misbehaving doing something from the crack at the time staying low.”

If the ball keeps low or reverses than your stumps are shattered as Bavuma and Faf found out. Hence it comes as no surprise that 18 off 27 Mohammed Shami’s wickets in the second innings in Asia have either been bowled or LBW. That is almost 67 percent, making him such an asset on low and slow tracks of India, as South Africa found out in Vizag Test.

It was also a testification of how Shami is revelling in his ‘second-innings Shami’ moniker no-matter if he is bowling on green mambas or dust bowls. The adversity of the conditions does not affect him; he’s seen worse in his personal life, bringing light what a tough character he is, making him a captain’s delight! 

Shami’s performance was also an embodiment of modern Indian bowling attack. No longer do they need to dish out rank-turners to win at home, making it an even more arduous task for any visiting side to breach the fortress that is India. If the spinners don’t get you, Shami or Umesh or Ishant will. They always do. And Bumrah has not even played a home Test yet and sooner or later, he will also join the bandwagon.

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