Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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ZIM v IND (2)
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When Mohammed Shami delivers with the seam bolt upright, he can make world-class batsmen look like amateurs. Then he'd follow it up with a freebie on the pads.
That inconsistency has worked against him in the past but now he's learned not to release the pressure he builds, so much that coach Ravi Shastri singled him out as the standout performer of the recent New Zealand tour. And on Saturday, he rocked Australia's world - both with the new ball and the old one - in the ODI series opener in Hyderabad.
From not featuring in India's ODI plans until the home series against West Indies in October last year, Shami continues to strengthen his sudden case of being India's second seamer at the World Cup. Since his return, no Indian seamer has picked up more wickets than his 19 in 10 matches. Even Bhuvneshwar Kumar, having had the benefit of playing an extra match, has one fewer wicket than Shami in this period.
In his tone-setting opening spell at Rajiv Gandhi stadium, Shami teased Usman Khawaja with a steady supply of full balls that nibbled away and threatened his outside edge. He then had Marcus Stoinis crumpling to the floor with a 140kph in-ducker. Sure, it was Jasprit Bumrah, who bowled the ball of the day to send Aaron Finch packing for a duck in his 100th ODI, but it was Shami who displayed greater control and consistency. How about 4-2-6-0 for an opening spell?
The in-form Glenn Maxwell and the highly-rated Ashton Turner then combined to give Australia's innings some direction. Maxwell shovelled left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav through extra-cover while Turner smeared left-arm orthodox spinner Ravindra Jadeja through midwicket. Australia were 155 for 4 in 35 overs.
Virat Kohli needed a wicket and turned to Shami. The old-ball enforcer responded by taking out both Turner and Maxwell in three overs. While Turner was tricked into pulling and missing an offcutter that wasn't quite short enough, Maxwell was simply blasted out. That bolt upright seam coupled with just enough movement stormed through his defences.
Shami wasn't done yet. He cranked up his pace into the high 140kph and unleashed inch-perfect yorkers in the death. He also experimented with the slower offcutter - a wise option on a fairly grippy, two-paced surface - and came away with figures of 2 for 44, his second-best 10-over spell in terms of economy rate. It would have been 2 for 40 had Bumrah not fumbled and leaked a four at short third man in the penultimate over of Australia's innings.
But best of all, Shami bowled only two balls on the leg stump and conceded two runs.
Control in the opening exchanges: check. Control in the middle overs: check. Control at the death: check. Bhuvneshwar is an expert at this, that's why he's a first-choice pick in a full-strength Indian side. And while Shami might not be there yet, this version of him is much closer than he was ever before.