In a series where there had barely been any movement for the fast bowlers, Mohammed Siraj found both swing and seam in his first over to deal twin blows to West Indies’ chase in the third ODI in Trinidad on Wednesday.
Getting the ball to curve late into Kyle Mayers off his very first delivery of the match, Siraj slipped it in past the left-hander to rattle his stumps. His third delivery was bowled with the seam slanted towards the slips for the right-hander Shamarh Brooks, but instead of swinging away, the ball cut back in after pitching to strike him plumb in front.
The past couple of weeks have seen a resurgence of Siraj the white-ball pacer, otherwise more known for his red-ball exploits. In the third ODI against England in Manchester as well, he had got the ball to leave the right-handers in his very first over. Jonny Bairstow had tried to turn him to the leg side but the ball had straightened to take a leading edge to mid-off. Siraj followed that up with a beauty of a wobble ball to Joe Root three balls latter, getting it to kick and leave the former England captain on a tight line to produce an outside edge to second slip.
Then, in the series opener in the Caribbean, he landed his full deliveries and yorkers on target to successfully defend 15 runs in the last over of the chase after West Indies had mounted a late charge. After the narrow three-run win, Yuzvendra Chahal had remarked that the team had been confident about seeing off West Indies, as they knew Siraj would bowl the last over and he had been hitting the blockhole accurately.
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Captain Shikhar Dhawan was pleased with Siraj’s performance, saying that the fast bowler was confident enough now to ask for his own fields. “He is a quality bowler and he has been playing for a few years now, so his self-belief has increased a lot. So when I tell him that we’ll set this field, he’ll say, ‘no, I want that kind of field.’ I like that,” Dhawan said after India’s 3-0 series sweep.
“That is the self-belief he has. He knows what he has to do and that is a very satisfying feeling as a skipper. He backs himself and makes it easy for me as a captain. He knows his responsibilities. So well done to Siraj, the way he bowled, his pace, his bouncers and how he got the ball to swing on this wicket, which a lot of other bowlers could not.”
During the Edgbaston Test against England at the start of this month, where he took 4/66 in the hosts’ first innings, Siraj said that the outswinger hadn’t been working for him after the Indian Premier League, so he’d worked on honing his natural inswinger.
“After the IPL I lost the outswing so I worked hard on the swing,” Siraj had said. “It might look great to bowl outswing but it might not fetch you too many wickets. So I had to work on bowling inswing as well.”
During last year’s IPL, he had spoken about how tips from Dale Steyn had helped him build confidence in his awayswinger. The delivery had gone away for a while this year, but in unhelpful conditions in the Caribbean, Siraj has rediscovered it, making him more potent with the new ball. His considerable red-ball skills have taken precedence so far, but Siraj also has a pretty solid List A record – 92 wickets in 53 games at an average of just 23.57. And if he can continue getting the ball to curve away, he provides India with a strike option in limited-overs too.