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Overseas performance, confidence booster: Shami

The fast bowler was happy to put up a significant bowling performance and believed it was hard work for the bowlers on a pitch that was testing and had very little on offer

For the first hour of the morning of Day 4, it almost looked like Dean Elgar and AB de Villiers would motor their way to their respective three figure marks. They were scoring at a brisk pace, the runs were coming nice and easy, a few edges failed to carry and there was no stopping the duo.

Jasprit Bumrah looked sharp, Ishant Sharma provided the on and off shouts for LBW, R Ashwin troubled Elgar but to no luck. Enter Mohammed Shami, and there was suddenly a twist in the tale. Shami steamed in hard hiding the ball in his palms, getting some reverse swing and managed to send back three South African batsmen back in the hut with some brilliant swing bowling. It was tough work according to Shami.

“The pitch has been slow since the beginning, even on the first day you saw that it is going low continuously. And even today, it went slow and low and you needed a lot of extra effort. We tried to give 110-120 percent. That was more important for us,” Shami said.

India’s most successful bowler in the first session was hardly given a ball to bowl in the session to follow. This arised a lot of speculations whether he was injured and hence wasn’t asked to comeback for another spell. Shami cleared the air and said there were no injury concerns whatsoever and it was totally the captain’s call as to when he wanted him back in business. Shami did comeback and pick another wicket to take his figures to 4/49. For the fast bowler, it was a moment of satisfaction.

“Whenever you perform overseas, your confidence grows and you feel good. I just try to perform for my team as much as I can and if I can do my best,it will be good for me.”

What was even more a sight to watch was Shami troubling Quinton de Kock in one over where he got past his edge on four occassions. Edges were flying off between slips and running away for boundaries but Shami did get his scalp soon. It was a matter of patience and keeping calm, believed Shami.

“For any bowler it is frustrating when the fielder is there and the edges are coming, but the result is not the one you want and the batsman isn’t getting out. So there is a little frustration mentally but you need to be mentally strong at that stage and think how long you can persist with it. He got three boundaries on three consecutive good balls. So I did the same again and I got result on that. As a bowling unit, we were looking to give away as few runs as possible and we wanted to attack them fully.”

Anand Subramaniam
Anand Subramaniam

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Ishant ready to own up to responsibility

The senior fast bowler reckoned he was unperturbed by conditions on offer and looked to thrive and give his best each time he got a chance to represent his side

Ishant Sharma is asked if he is often considered to be unlucky having to bowl in conditions that are difficult. He is then asked if he would have preferred bowling at Cape Town in the first Test on conditions that were conducive to fast bowling. Sharma smirks, and says, “Actually, I cannot blame anyone for this. I was supposed to play the first Test, but I fell ill as soon as we reached here. I didn’t fully recover and couldn’t play the first game.”

Sharma is quick to point out that he is the senior fast bowler and it was time he took up responsibility and rose to the occasion when needed the most. “Obviously, I am the senior fast bowler of this team, so I have to take responsibility. If I am ready to take responsibility and take those important wickets for the team, I am always up for it.”

Which he was, here in Centurion wherein his figures read 3/46 at a miserly economy of 2.09. Conditions were tough on Day 1. There was hardly anything on the pitch for the fast bowlers with the sun belting down hard and South Africa making full use of the flat yard laid out. The batsmen did try to make merry before Sharma struck to get AB de Villiers on Day 1, got Kagiso Rabada to pull one that bounced off the pitch and then castled Faf du Plessis with a classic inswinger which was nothing less than a fast bowler’s delight.

For Sharma, the key to success was to bowl a disciplined line. “The pitch was quite two paced. On such pitches you have to be very disciplined and we did that. We tried our best to make sure that the game doesn’t go out of control. My effort was to keep bowling in good areas, and bowl in the batsmen’s weak areas. I wanted to set fields and bowl according to plans. I didn’t want to give away too many runs.”

Sharma was at his economical best and often tried to run hard and bang the ball on good lengths; something that was one his biggest strengths. “I always believe in my strength and my strength is bounce,” he said. “I always try to bowl where I can finish my ball on the top of off stump. That is the best chance you give yourself to take more wickets and that’s what I was doing.”

Anand Subramaniam
Anand Subramaniam

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