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Match Analysis

Mohammed Shami's planning and perseverance bring the rewards

By going a touch fuller and with wonderful control of the seam, Shami was India's best bowler

Nagraj Gollapudi
Every great fast bowler has a skillset that keeps batters guessing. Tim Southee has his three-quarters seam. Trent Boult can bend the ball into the pads. Neil Wagner gets high slinging rockets at your ribs and head all day. Jasprit Bumrah can give nightmares just with that menacing walking-run up. Ishant Sharma will build the pressure with nagging lengths and the ability to swerve the ball both ways.
But none of these fast men do what Mohammed Shami can: deliver with an upright seam ball after ball. Like a shaman, Shami can hypnotise you with his seam position. The control over the seam position allows him to control the batter who is never certain which way it will move and how much. The beauty and power of this skill, a gift, is the batter can read Shami's hand and yet be defeated.
That's how Shami started today. Ross Taylor had been circumspect during the first spells of Bumrah and Sharma. Although he was getting into awkward positions as his head was falling over, he was getting away with it due to short lengths by the two Indian strike bowlers.
However, Taylor was ruffled quickly by Shami's first two deliveries: both pitched on a length and angled into the batter who prepared to play but was surprised by the excessive away movement upon pitching on the seam. Next delivery Shami pitched it fuller and Taylor leaned in to punch a cover drive for four. Shami wouldn't mind it. His next two overs would be maidens before he took a pit stop to change ends.
First ball from the other end Shami once again pitched fuller, tempting Taylor to take the bait. New Zealand's most senior batter just did that, punching an airy drive to the right of mid-off where an agile Shubman Gill threw himself to his right to pick a low catch. Shami let out a scream, as it was the first New Zealand wicket to fall after a quiet first hour in the morning.
Next over Shami went round the wicket and dug in a quick short delivery that caught new man Henry Nicholls in two minds as he tried to fend it off with both feet in air and was lucky to get away as the ball seemed to have brushed his left shoulder through to Rishabh Pant.
Even on Sunday Shami had shaken the New Zealand top order with energetic spells where edges flew off the shoulder of bat over the slip and gully cordon. But his lengths were not full enough just like his other two compatriots. Shami had bowled just four full deliveries alongside 30 balls on short-of-a-good-length and 32 balls on length as per the ESPNcricinfo's data logs. Today, Shami pitched 15 deliveries fuller and although he went for 15 runs, he picked up two wickets off them. He also pitched 37 balls on length, giving away 16 runs and taking a wicket.
That adjustment helped Shami to force the batters to play virtually every ball. Out of the 65 deliveries he bowled to New Zealand's top-seven batters, only 15 were left alone. Shami has always said that his role is to attack and his modus operandi has been to hit the right line and length. Wickets have never bothered him much as much as hitting the right spot.
If the batter is not attentive, as BJ Watling found on the verge of lunch, Shami could easily pierce your defence. Watling had barely moved his front foot and was rooted to the crease even as the ball started to shape into him, but seamed away at the last moment to leave the stumps blinking and bails flying while triggering a roar from the Indian players and the fans.
Even Williamson, who was peerless in judging the ball and in his defence, got trapped into the Shami plan when he was struck on the back pad as the ball pitched on the seam and moved away subtly. The New Zealand captain survived, courtesy of the umpire's call as the review showed the ball just kissing the outside of the off stump.
But it was how he set up the wicket of Kyle Jamieson that proved Shami's presence of mind. Jamieson was happy to play in T20 mode and had taken 10 runs off Sharma's over and hit Shami for four and a six. Until then neither of the India quicks had challenged the 6'8" Jamieson with a short delivery. One reason was having bowled long spells since the morning the fast bowlers were tiring. But Shami still found the energy to dig in two bouncers, the second of which Jamieson top-edged into the hands of Bumrah at deep square leg.
Last time Shami bowled in a Test in England was at The Oval in the final Test of the 2018 tour where he repeatedly beat the edge but went wicketless in the first innings and got two wickets in the second. Today Shami fell one short of taking his maiden five-for in England. But he was not disappointed only because he had put India back in the match using he two Ps: planning and perseverance.
The Indian dressing room calls Shami as Lala. Lala is term endearingly used in the subcontinent to describe an elder brother. At 30, Shami is not the oldest in the Indian camp, but with his experience he has earned the moniker.
Lala gets you excited as he gallops with that lovely, energetic, purposeful stride. Lala gets a wicket nearly every ball - at least that is what he makes you believe as he raises both hands behind his head mid-air on his follow-through. Lala bowls with that beautiful upright seam using which he can conjure some magic. Like he did on this chilly Tuesday when he outsmarted the New Zealand batters.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo