ENG vs IND: Mohammed Shami and England, a love story like no other

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Luck is such an important part of any sport. A player or team gives its everything to reap success, but that seems futile without luck. A good fortune always goes neck-to-neck with the hard work in the sport.

But, the right process and the maximum effort is something always reflected in performance irrespective of luck. The numbers may tell a different tale, but a closer look at such performances is worth it to understand the hard work put in the background.

Mohammed Shami, the Indian speedster, is one of those players who put his maximum effort whenever he steps on the field. He toils hard on the cricket field, whether he is in the net practise or playing a game for his team. 

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Shami and the England Tour:

England is, undoubtedly, one of the toughest places to play Test cricket in. There is always something for the bowlers in the air and off the pitch. Let’s not dive deep into it since Shami is our subject for now.

Whenever India plays in English conditions, Mohammed Shami hogs headlines. His lengths become the subject of heated discussions among cricket analysts. 

There were also the talks about Shami’s abysmal numbers in this particular country and rightly so. Before the commencement of the World Test Championship Final, Shami had 21 wickets at a below-par bowling average and strike rate of 47.01 and 76.7 in 15 innings. He was quite successful in the other nations, he bowled in, but his colours were faded off in the UK.

Last Visit to the UK

India’s pace attack, in the Pataudi Trophy 2018, was probably the most potent bowling attack ever that toured England. And, Shami was seen as India’s main weapon going into the series last time around. The pacer, expectedly, was quite threatening too; making life tough for England batsmen.

The line he bowled didn’t allow the batsmen to free their arms, not by an inch. According to CricViz, the 30-years old made the batsmen miss or edge on 26% of his deliveries, which were the most by a bowler in that series. Mohammed Shami was relentless, whenever he came to bowl – drawing the most number of false shots (272) by an Indian bowler.

Yet, his eventual numbers were far from impressive as he didn’t get the expected number of wickets. A bowler who threatened the batsmen thoroughly didn’t taste an adequate amount of success. Not unusual, but in Shami’s case, it is very usual.

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Let’s start with his new-ball exploits in the last series. Mohammed Shami took only two wickets with each coming at 52 runs apiece in the first 20 overs. His bowling average was the worst, to go with the second-worst strike rate (106.5) among the lot.

 

While Shami's line was accurate, his length, probably, wasn't. Shami bowled the majority of his balls on the 'good length' area but, still, erred a bit. The pacer majorly bowled the short of good length deliveries instead of the good length deliveries.

While bowling in England, it is necessary to keep your length a bit fuller. While bowling on the fuller side of a good length (more towards the 6m mark than the 8m mark), there is a probability of inducing the batsmen's edge. This is where Shami blundered.

He bowled on the good length area, but his length was a tad short. In English conditions, this length is fine, but it won't bring the wickets. Hence, whenever Shami came to bowl, he only troubled the batsmen, and never dismissed them as consistently.

The pitch maps attached above are from the fourth Test 2018, where he took six wickets. The majority of the balls from him were on the back of the length area. But, all his wickets came from balls that were at the height of the stumps.

For Shami, it is quite understandable too. He is more of a seam bowler than a swing bowler. That was what had made him so successful in the sub-continent conditions.

His outright seam position is one of the best in the world, which is highly appreciated too. His natural length is back of a length, where he mostly extracts movement from. As a result, he takes a bunch of wickets on the sub-continent but ends on the wrong side of the length on English soil.

This was the template that Shami stuck by the entire tour. He landed a few balls on the good length area and the stump height and got wickets from there. All of his 16 wickets came from the deliveries landing on the height of the stumps.

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What worked in the WTC Final & 1st innings v England?

Mohammed Shami was the most successful pacer for India in the final of the inaugural World Test Championship. But, like the previous tour, he started the innings on a touch shorter length. As a result, he didn't get any wickets on the third day of the match.

But, unlike the last tour, he adjusted his length pretty quickly on day five. His length was quite improved and, finally, the result went in his favour. The Jonagar-born triggered a collapse for New Zealand and snared four crucial wickets for the Virat Kohli-led side.

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He carried on this form in the ongoing first match against England too. He was bang on target right from the start. His balls on good length deliveries were comparatively more than the last time, and, hence, he got wickets too. The luck turned.

 

Shami, clearly, focused on hitting that good length area consistently. He also dismissed the batsmen from the length balls, enjoying a fair bit of luck too. He planned well and executed brilliantly.

He was relentless against Jonny Bairstow. He bowled with good pace and his angle made the inswingers more lethal. As a result, Bairstow failed to cover the angle completely and fell to a pacy inswinger.

For Dom Sibley, the Indian side had a leg-side trap. Sibley generally flicks in the air rather than keeping it to the ground. Shami made a fielder (Rahul) stand at short midwicket and bowled one on his pads to dismiss him.

He was a tad lucky to get his third wicket. Dan Lawrence got out to one of Shami’s worst deliveries of the innings. The ball was going down leg, but Lawrence nicked it to Rishabh Pant.

While he was majorly unlucky in the last tour, Shami would hope for good luck on this tour, now that he has started off well.

The pacer formed a deadly trio of length, pace and swing - making the batsmen clueless in the first innings against England at Trent Bridge. Shami’s grip in this Test helped him cover that extra yard and bowl on the good length area. He made the batsmen play on the front foot and kept them guessing.

The Indian team would be hoping for him to continue bowling with the same accuracy throughout the series. His form and rhythm will be vital for his team. India cannot afford Shami to have another 'unlucky' tour.

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