Brilliant spells of fast bowling make Test cricket richer. Spells that usually set up a contest. Invariably the tussle is between the best fast bowler and the best batsman in the opposition. As a fan, you are always anticipating something about to happen.
Part of a good or a great spell of fast bowling is the set-up. The bowler sells the dummy. The batsman gets drawn, at times willingly, most times without being privy to the strategy, and suddenly you start seeing the trap.
Kemar Roach v Ben Stokes on Friday afternoon in Manchester was one such enticing contest.
Stokes had just faced just four deliveries from Roach in the first half-hour after lunch. Roach was now in his fourth over in the second session. The first ball was short of length and Stokes dabbed it without any struggle. But Roach had spotted Stokes standing way out of his crease. The Barbadian's ego would have surely been challenged, but he did not show it.
Roach ran back in, banged down a perfect bouncer that rattled Stokes' helmet. The sharp knock might have echoed through the empty ground. It was now the turn of Stokes' ego being dented a bit as he had to undergo the regulation concussion protocol.
Next ball Roach repeated the same short-ball treatment. Stokes this time played the hook spontaneously. It went for a four. Was Roach disappointed? Nope. He had spotted Stokes had stepped back closer to the crease after the knock on the head.
Roach maintained a fourth stump or wider line for the next two deliveries. The penultimate ball of the over, Roach went closer to the stumps, something he does not so often anymore. Stokes was back in his crease. The ball pitched on length, seamed in. There was no forward press. Stokes was not expecting the ball to come straight and move in at speed. It burst through his defence. Timber! England's best batsman just kept looking in disbelief at spot where the ball had pitched.
Roach did not say a word. Just ran past Stokes with a confident stride, with glaring eyes that conveyed the message: "I beat you. I set you up."
Two overs later Roach would hit Ollie Pope on his helmet with a scrambled seam delivery as the right-hander went for a hook and was beaten by the pace. Roach would finish the spell, with a spectacular outswinger, delivered from close to stumps, pitching on length, drawing Rory Burns forward, exposing his outside edge with the away movement.
It was as spell to remember. A spell built on toil, discipline and determination. According to ESPNcricinfo ball-by-ball data, of the 36 deliveries in that first spell of the second session, Roach fired 15 on the stumps, with an equal number outside off, in the channel. There were 21 deliveries on length, which is something bowlers have long utilised to dominate batsmen. But for Stokes he mixed them up well, pitching half-a-dozen short, eight fuller, and just one short-of-length.
Roach did not waste his deliveries. He invested them in setting up the batsmen.
In the morning there was another set-up.
The first three balls of the match to Dom Sibley were all pitched well outside off stump. Sibley had amassed one of the slowest Test centuries at the same ground in the previous Test by leaving such balls alone.
Roach pushed the square leg fielder slightly behind square. Sibley might not have bought into the plan, but where Roach surprised him was by pitching straighter in line with the stumps. With his slightly awkward half-open stance, Sibley attempted to play the ball across the line. The bat face was closed when the ball hit his front pad.
"I told you. I told you." Roach celebrated his first wicket of the morning ecstatically.
Two set-ups. Two wickets. Both the centurions in the second Test.
Wicketless and hungry in Southampton. Disciplined and determined in the second Test at Old Trafford, yet still left three short of the landmark of becoming only the ninth fast bowler from West Indies to bag 200 Test wickets.
Roach nearly had his 200th Test wicket in the first two overs with the second new ball late in the afternoon, Jos Buttler's outside edge flying through the empty fourth slip. Pope got lucky, too, as John Campbell failed to be proactive at short extra cover. Roach nearly screamed in delight.
He was made to wait once again. The smile, though, did not vanish.
As Ian Bishop said on TV during the tea break - Kemar Roach in full flow is a joy to watch.