Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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The seam is bolt upright. Not even a hint of wobble. Finn Allen topples over like a house of cards. The ball clunks into the top of middle stump via a deflection off the back pad. Inducker after three outswingers. The perfect set-up. This is vintage Mohammed Shami. He strikes in the first over of the first-ever international game in Raipur to rouse a sellout crowd.
Sure, there's a smattering of grass on this pitch, though nothing as generous as a green seamer on the first day of a Test match in Hamilton. Shami keeps landing the ball on the seam to maximise the early juice. He keeps threatening both the edges. He doesn't present width. He doesn't offer the drive ball that New Zealand are searching for.
Daryl Mitchell tries to manufacture that drive ball by shimming out of his crease, but Shami still beats him in length and has him weakly plopping a return catch. Mitchell throws his head back in despair. Shami throws the ball up in the air and wheels away in celebration.
The drive ball never comes from Shami in the powerplay. Just one of his 24 in the powerplay was full, but even that wasn't really hittable. Mohammed Siraj and Hardik Pandya back Shami up beautifully as New Zealand fall to 15 for 4 in ten overs. They are eventually rolled over for 108 in 34.3 overs.
"Conditions were not as helpful to the bowlers as it may have appeared," Shami said at the post-match press conference. "They got out early but conditions were not overtly bowler-friendly. We dismissed them cheaply by bowling a testing length. It was a damp wicket but it was important to keep good line and length. All the bowlers were disciplined and the result is for all to see."
New Zealand captain Tom Latham admitted that the unwavering accuracy of Shami and Siraj handcuffed their batters in the early exchanges.
"They obviously bowled fantastically well," Latham said. "And like you said they were pretty relentless with the lines and lengths they bowled and that didn't give us any easy scoring options and then obviously to be five down reasonably early on, I think just after the 10th or 11th over... Yeah, it was hard to come back from there. When you get bowled out for just over a 100 obviously makes things pretty difficult. So, unfortunately it was just one of those days where everything India did turned their way."
New Zealand briefly threatened a fightback through Michael Bracewell (who else?) once the ball grew older and softer. Shardul Thakur finally gave Bracewell the drive ball, and the batter drilled him down the ground for four. Then, when Shami returned to the attack, Bracewell carted him for three fours in six balls. Bracewell had laid into him in the first ODI in Hyderabad too but here Shami beasted the Beast. He ditched his attempted yorker, which disappeared to the boundary, for the big bouncer. He switched his angle from around the wicket to over the wicket and let rip a head-high lifter close to the off stump. Bracewell had very little time and room to work with and ended up top-edging it to the keeper. Game over for New Zealand.
Prasidh Krishna or Umran Malik have been India's chief enforcers in the middle overs of an ODI in the past two years. However, Prasidh is now on the sidelines, still working his way back from injury while Malik can't find a place in this XI because India want some batting insurance at No. 8 in the form of Thakur. In their absence, Shami has stepped up with the old ball too and kept himself in India's World Cup frame and Raipur couldn't have been happier. The city had waited for a long time for its first international game and Shami ensured it was worth it, despite the match lasting just 55 overs. After the game ended early, a laser show kept the fans entertained. The show ended with a message to the crowd: "Chhattisgarh thanks you". Perhaps, that was a message to Shami as well.
India's bowling depth is as unprecedented as their batting depth these days. Just like how Ishan Kishan made way for Shubman Gill immediately after smashing a double-century, Shami might have to make way for Jasprit Bumrah once he regains fitness. Which isn't anything new. Shami hasn't been an ODI regular for India - he has played in just 14 of their 44 games since the start of 2020. Siraj's emergence has pushed him into the background a bit. But Saturday's events proved he's not the kind of player who goes quietly into the night.
That means advantage India because how many teams can say they have a bowler like Shami as their plan B?