Just like spinners, Indian pacers Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, too, have been a headache for touring English batsmen
2nd Test, Visakhapatnam, Day 3: Staring at India’s mammoth first innings total of 455, England are putting up a fight in the morning session after being reduced to 80/5 in the previous evening. Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes are defying the Indian bowlers with ease. Virat Kohli brings in Umesh Yadav for a short spell just before lunch as well as the second new ball. Yadav gets a firing full delivery to dart back a bit into Bairstow. The right-handed batsman tries to flick it on the leg side, but the ball hits his pad and crashes into the stumps.
India break the resistance, England are shot out for 255.
3rd Test, Mohali, Day 1: England smile after winning the toss to bat first. Unperturbed, India make the new ball talk, with Yadav removing Haseeb Hameed and Joe Root and reducing the visitors to 51/3. Moeen Ali and Bairstow stitch a little stand. Kohli gets Mohammed Shami back for a burst before lunch. The captain and bowler have a plan: keep a fine leg, pepper Ali with some short stuff. The southpaw goes for a hook but top-edges it straight to the positioned fielder.
India break the resistance, England are shot out for 283.
These are two examples of Indian bowlers out-pacing and out-bouncing the opposition in this series against England, a rarity for the country’s fast bowlers, especially on home conditions. Make no mistake, the pace battery of Shami and Yadav deserves as much credit for India being 2-0 up in the first half of the five-match series as the spinners. They’ve been brilliant side actors to the main heroes.
India have used just two fast bowlers in the three Tests against England so far but they’ve picked up 15 wickets between themselves, Shami 10 and Yadav five.
England, on the other hand, have used four, and yet their fast bowling unit has just four more wickets to show than their Indian counterparts.
No doubt, the four Indian spinners have taken the bulk of the wickets (36) against the Englishmen, but it’s the manner in which the pace duo has bowled that is bound to please captain Kohli and head coach Anil Kumble.
They’ve not let England get away with the new ball – considered the best time to bat in India – they’ve kept the pressure on with the older cherry without leaking easy runs, and they’ve broken partnerships during times the spinners haven’t been able to.
“Credit to them both,” Kohli said of the pacers after India’s victory in Mohali. “They’ve put their hand up, they’re happy with their roles, they’re not desperate for too many wickets. They come and chip in, and let the others do their job.
“Our guys really rushed in, put in an effort and got the results. Even when we played in Kolkata earlier this year (against New Zealand), we proved that we’re not a team that needs dry wickets to win. We can play good cricket anywhere,” he added.
And that’s where the team management needs to be lauded. Like has been the culture in the team overall, the Indian fast bowling unit has also adopted to the horses for courses policy. Despite a decent outing against the Kiwis in the first Test in Kanpur in September, Yadav was asked to sit out in the ensuing Kolkata Test. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was brought in on a green pitch, and he got a five-wicket haul in the first innings as the hosts wrapped up the series.
The thought process is simple: play Bhuvi in conditions that helps seam and swing, play Yadav in conditions that aide reverse swing. Both do their jobs well, both understand their utility.
“The good thing is whoever is playing is standing up and making their presence felt. That, as a captain, is very pleasing. If you have quality bowlers in your reserves as well, as a captain you can always tell your players to push themselves,” Kohli said.
One bowler who has really pushed himself in this series is Shami, who has returned from a career-threatening knee injury. He’s put in the hard yards during training, come back stronger and is now sending down deliveries as quickly as the nippy Yadav, if not more.
“Shami is able to sustain that energy much more now,” Kohli said. “He’s able to bowl long spells. He’s become more aware of what he wants to do and what he has to do as a Test bowler. And he is making those important breakthroughs. If you see throughout these three games, he has really rushed in.
“Even Umesh as well, they both have bowled 140-145 kmph consistently. On these kind of pitches, to not lose heart and keep coming back, running in and bouncing guys speaks a lot of their character,” he added.
Wickets by Indian fast bowlers this series:
1st Test (Rajkot)
1st innings: 4
2nd innings: 0
2nd Test (Vizag)
1st innings: 2
2nd innings: 2
3rd Test (Mohali)
1st innings: 5
2nd innings: 2
PACERS SHOW THIS SERIES
Player Mat Overs Runs Wkts Best Avg SR
M Shami 3 103.0 252 10 3/63 25.20 61.8
U Yadav 3 94.5 307 5 2/58 61.40 113.8
B Stokes 3 76.2 249 7 5/73 35.57 65.4
S Broad 2 62.0 168 6 4/33 28.00 62.0
J Anderson 2 59.0 151 4 3/62 37.75 88.5
C Woakes 2 61.0 165 2 1/6 82.50 183.0