Mohali: Mohammed Shami displayed his artistry with impressive figures of 5 for 51, reminding all and sundry of his skills while helping India restrict Australia to 276 in the first ODI here on Friday.
Shami, who doesn’t seem to feature in India’s first XI plans for the World Cup, literally made a statement with his second five-wicket haul in ODIs.
His performance also put tremendous pressure on the weakest link among pacers Shardul Thakur (0/78 in 10 overs), who has been selected in the 15, primarily due to his batting skills.
Shardul would consider himself unlucky that Shreyas Iyer dropped a dolly at mid-off when David Warner had hardly got off the blocks.
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In conditions conducive for batting, India skipper KL Rahul opted to bowl and Shami was literally unplayable in his opening spell, and then came back to remove a set Steve Smith (41 off 60 balls) in a short second stint, to disturb the visiting team’s momentum.
Stockily built wicketkeeper Jos Inglis (45 off 45 balls) and Marcus Stoinis (29 off 21 balls) added 62 runs for the sixth wicket to take Australia past 250-run mark but it was certainly below par as Shami got Stoinis in the nick of time to put the brakes on their scoring.
Warner (52 off 53 balls), Smith and Marnus Labuschagne (39 off 49 balls) all got starts but the lack of conversion did hurt the Aussies on a day when the Indian bowling unit was supremely effective without being exceptional.
All eyes were trained on Ravichandran Ashwin (1/47 in 10 overs) and he did find his rhythm in the second spell after looking rusty during the first spell. He went for 36 in his first six overs but Rahul changed his end during the second spell and it read 4-0-11-1.
The Australian team also suffered due to freak dismissals, first when Labuschagne missed an Ashwin delivery while trying to play a reverse sweep and the ball ricocheted off Rahul’s pads with the batter out of his ground.
Then it was Cameron Green (31 off 52 balls), who was slowly but steadily setting it up with Inglis before a miscommunication led to his run-out.
But no praise will be enough for Shami, probably the most versatile seam and swing bowler of his generation, who has magic in those fingers and wrists.
In his very first over, Shami bowled one that moved in the air and just deviated away after pitching. It was full and pitched at a length where Mitchell Marsh had to press forward and the thickish outside edge was a regulation catch for Shubman Gill.
Warner had six fours and two sixes before Ravindra Jadeja (1/51 in 10 overs) broke the dangerous looking 94-run stand between him and Smith.
He tried the slog sweep but did get the required elevation or the distance and was holed in the deep.
But the turning point was Shami’s second spell, where he bowled a sharp in-cutter that jagged back enough and Smith, who was late in reacting, inside edged onto the stumps.
In his third spell, he bowled one stumps and Stoinis’ heave across the line saw his stumps uprooted.
During his first spell, Shami showed his variations when he would repeatedly pitch the ball on three quarter length and draw Warner forward but teasingly went past the edge of his bat.
It is unfortunate that Shami isn’t there in India’s primary first XI plans as far as the first two pace bowling slots are concerned. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj have locked those and Hardik Pandya is being looked at as the third seamer when three spinners are playing.
But the problem is this team management’s reliance on bits and pieces ability of Shardul Thakur, who could be profligate with the ball even with his happy knack of picking wickets. In terms of quality, Shami showed on the day there is simply no comparison.